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September 24, 2012

Sidney closely follows Bendix takeover talks in 1982

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The Daily Star

---- — Nerves were a little on edge in Sidney during the month of September 1982. Workers at Bendix Corp., today’s Amphenol, were closely following a corporate takeover contest between Martin Marietta Corp. and United Technologies, bidding for Bendix. What this meant to their jobs was foremost on workers’ minds.

This contest, of sorts, had begun Aug. 25. At that time, Bendix announced it would try to acquire Martin Marietta, a manufacturer of aerospace products, for $1.5 billion. Marietta then countered with a $1.5 billion offer of their own for Bendix, whose major business was automotive products. The Sidney plant manufactured electrical connections for hydraulic fluid transmission in aircraft at the time.

United Technologies joined in the takeover bid as an ally of Marietta on Tuesday, Sept. 7. All companies remained generally quiet during the bidding. At the Bendix headquarters in Southfield, Mich., Chairman William M. Agee urged Bendix employees to retain their company stock rather than sell it to Marietta at a profit.

On Tuesday morning, Sept. 14, employees in Sidney got a chance to see what their company managers were doing about a likely takeover by one of the companies. Employees viewed videotaped messages, including one from Chairman Agee, discussing an upcoming meeting of Bendix shareholders the next week. The tapes were shown on video screens around the plant, including one in the employee cafeteria.

That next Monday, Sept. 20, was billed as “Bendix Unity Day,” as the nearly 500,000 employees at more than 100 plants across the nation, including Sidney, participated in rallies for their company.

As The Daily Star described the Sidney event, “It had the appearance of an election picnic, complete with bumper stickers, Styrofoam hats and balloons. Perhaps, to a certain extent, it was.”

Sidney’s 2,000 employees heard speeches from company administrators and noted community figures, in an attempt to influence employee shareholders to hang on to their shares of Bendix stock.

The stock-buying offers by Marietta were called lucrative, but Robert Schaeffer, general manager of the Sidney plant, asked employees to oppose the offer. At the same time he said a merger between Bendix and Marietta would result in a stronger company that would “enhance our national defense.” The confrontation between Bendix and Marietta could result in each having ownership of the other, it was thought. Bendix had been purchasing Marietta stock and hoped to place representatives on Marietta’s board of directors before Marietta could begin buying Bendix stock.

The next day, the takeover got even more exciting, as Allied Corp. jumped into the fray. Allied had been in the chemical industry since the early 20th century. By late Friday, Sept. 24, Allied had agreed to buy Bendix for about $1.9 billion and gain a significant stake in Marietta as well. It was Allied’s first involvement in the aerospace industry.

On Saturday, Agee said he had no regrets about the battle of the corporate giants that led to the acquisition of his company.

“There will be no serious dismemberment of the company,” Agee said. Workers in Sidney could sigh in relief with that news.

When Allied took over, Sidney’s operation became the Bendix Connector of Allied Corp. In 1987, Allied sold the company and it became Amphenol Corp. under the LPL Investment Group Inc.

This weekend, national debt reduction also became a local goal in the fall of 1932.

City Historian Mark Simonson’s column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area during the Depression and before. His Monday columns address local history after the Depression. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or email him at simmark@stny.rr.com. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/marksimonson.