Post-Leever, Who Will Pull Platform’s Levers?

Not sure whom Platform Specialty Products has in mind to replace Dan Leever, but it’s not going to be an easy gig.

Leever is a second-generation PCB guy whose father, Harold, was MacDermid’s first R&D chemist and eventually led a group of employees who purchased the firm from its founder in 1959. Dan joined the firm in 1982, and became CEO in 1990. He took it private in 2007, returned the firm to profitability, then was prepared to take in public again in 2011 before scrapping the IPO and selling to Platinum.

Leever was promptly put in charge of Platinum and, since then, has been on an acquisition streak, gobbling up OMG’s printed circuit chemistry unit and Alent, which includes competitor Enthone plus solder materials maker Alpha.

Leever knows the quirks of the PCB industry through and through, having endured three major downturns and the near-complete geographical transformation of the market. His decision to retire leaves Platform in a bit of a pickle, faced with absorbing and integrating the pending acquisitions, plus turning around a debt-laded balance sheet.

Whomever they bring in — and Leever is said to be having a hand in picking his replacement — will have a company capable of best-in-class  product development but will face scrutiny from investors and analysts over the company’s finances for some time to come.

Platinum Deals Cost a Lot of Gold

The silence, as they say, surrounding the pending Platinum Specialty Products acquisitions for OMG and now Alent, has been deafening.

Could it be because it’s summer, and people aren’t paying as close attention?

Could it be because that’s how the respective companies prefer it?

We receive announcements several times a week from various folks within Alent, but they haven’t said boo about the buyout. And the folks in the industry I’ve queried about it haven’t been quick to respond either, both on the Alpha and the Enthone sides.

Platinum is aggressively buying up companies in the solder and electroplating/finishing materials space, first having bid for OMG’s PCB chemicals unit (the former Electrochemicals) and now agreeing to terms for Alent, the former Cookson metals divisions which include Enthone and Alpha.

The aggregate price tag for the various units: $2.67 billion, including assumed debt.

That will add to the debt Platinum assumed when it acquired MacDermid in 2013 for $1.8 billion. The weight of these transactions is making folks inside and outside the industry a bit cautious, as this recent statement from Moody’s indicated.

Platinum paid nearly $40 million in interest in the first quarter alone, and its operating profit for the period was just $2.2 million. The additional acquisitions will further stress a balance sheet that carried $1.4 billion in debt as of Dec. 31.

Dan Leever, the man at the helm of Platinum following its buyout of MacDermid, knows the PCB industry inside and out, but it’s unclear to me how much further they can go before running into a Viasystems-like situation.