Steeltin Can will be sold to Illinois-based U.S. Can Local family owned company since 1912

November 23, 1993|By Kim Clark | Kim Clark,Staff Writer

U.S. Can Corp., one of the nation's largest maker of paint cans, said yesterday that it had reached an agreement to buy the Baltimore-based Steeltin Can Corp. from the local family that has owned it since 1912.

The price of the planned purchase of Steeltin's local coffee, peanut and Christmas cookie can-making operations was not disclosed.

Oak Brook, Ill.-based U.S. Can, which sold $400 million worth of cosmetic, paint, and industrial cans last year, said it expected to keep Steeltin's facilities operating.

Steeltin has 170 employees at its Baltimore can-making and distributing complex in Rosedale, and 50 workers at a can-printing plant in New Castle, Pa. The company said it expects to have sales approaching $40 million this year.

"We're going to run Steeltin, just like we've run everything else" U.S.Can has bought, William J. Smith, president of U.S. Can, rTC said late yesterday. "Usually, we build up the operations."

U.S. Can has about 100 employees in Maryland, split between a new paint-can plant in Elkridge and the old American National Can printing facility at Sparrows Point.

Mr. Smith said he expected the deal, which awaits approval by federal antitrust regulators, to be completed by the end of the year.

Jay M. Wilson, president of Steeltin, as well as the great-grandnephew of the company's founder, said last night that the can industry has been consolidating, and he believed his family-owned company would either have to acquire another company or be acquired to succeed.

He said for the past two years, he had been trying to buy out some of his competitors in the specialty can business, but changed his mind and decided to sell when he was approached by U.S. Can.

Mr. Wilson, 46, said he believed U.S. Can, which already has 18 manufacturing plants nationwide, has the money and size needed to keep Steeltin strong.

Mr. Wilson, who has five children, said he wasn't saddened by the end of the family's operation of the company.

"Every family faces choices," he said. The Wilson family preferred to sell to U.S. Can rather than borrow money to buy another company and invest in new equipment, he said.

Steeltin, which has no debt, Mr. Wilson said, has seen sales more than triple over the past 20 years. It was consistently profitable, even during the recent recession, he said.

Mr. Wilson, who has worked at Steeltin for 20 years, said he would stay on at the company to make the transition to a new owner successful.

But then, he said, he didn't know what he would do.

Steeltin was founded as a can-maker for the Chesapeake Bay's oyster industry in 1912.

Mr. Wilson's grandfather, Lawrence Meacham, purchased the company from his uncle in 1919.

Mr. Meacham, who had played football with Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Army, fought in World War I and re-enlisted to help Eisenhower plan D-Day in World War II, Mr. Wilson said. During the World War II, he said, his mother ran the company.

Mr. Wilson said that when he was young, his family discouraged him from working at Steeltin. "I wasn't allowed on the premises until I was 25 years old."

Although it appears as though Baltimore has lost another company headquarters, Mr. Wilson said some have suggested he might succeed in convincing U.S. Can to move here from Illinois.

Mr. Smith, U.S. Can's president, was a manager of the old American Can plant at Boston and Hudson streets during the 1960s and is an avid Orioles fan, he said.

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