Davis Instruments is sold to JPB

Columbia-based acquirer is headed by former Grace CEO


January 04, 2000|By Kristine Henry | Kristine Henry,SUN STAFF

A holding company headed by the former chief executive of chemical maker W. R. Grace said yesterday that it has purchased Baltimore-based Davis Instruments Manufacturing Co. Inc. for an undisclosed price.

Privately held Davis, founded in Baltimore 88 years ago, distributes measurement and control equipment. Several years ago it entered a new arena by providing calibration services, which is to manufacturing equipment what a tuneup is to a car.

"We have a vision of dominating the calibration-service market nationally and we needed to find a financial partner to aid us and help us with financial aspects," said Lee Rudow, 35, president of Davis.

The firm it found was JPB Enterprises Inc. of Columbia. Its chief executive officer, J. P. Bolduc, headed Boca Raton, Fla.-based Grace until his resignation in March 1995. Ten months later he founded JPB.

Rudow will remain president and none of Davis' 90 employees are expected to be laid off. Rather, JPB plans to use it as a platform to go after similar companies -- which Bolduc declined to name -- and fold them into Davis.

"We always look for companies that have value -- name value, reputation value, quality of enterprise value and value in leadership," said Bolduc, 60. "Davis satisfied all those requirements."

Davis' roots date back to 1779 in Derby, England, where it began as a manufacturer of underground-mining equipment. In 1912, the Davis family set up shop in Baltimore. The company now has annual revenue of more than $30 million. Rudow said he is "highly confident" of JPB's ability to help the company grow, despite some problems associated with Grace during Bolduc's tenure.

The Securities and Exchange Commission charged Grace with allegedly using reserve funds to improperly inflate earnings in 1994.

The company settled with the SEC last year, agreeing to pay $1 million toward an education fund that will be used to increase awareness about financial reporting principles. However, Bolduc said he and other officials have not settled and are still involved in the civil lawsuit, which the SEC filed in December 1998.

"What we did was absolutely and unequivocally correct and the only right thing to do in terms of reporting earnings," Bolduc said. "If I had it all to do over again I would do it exactly the way I did it."

Bolduc's resignation from Grace came amid allegations, which he strenuously denies, that he sexually harassed five women at the company. One lawsuit was filed -- and dismissed. Bolduc had also raised the ire of some at the firm by shining light on the large retirement package paid to former Chairman J. Peter Grace.

"We've been working with the [JPB] Group for six months," Rudow said, "and I have a high degree of confidence in our ability to work together."

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