After 80 years, family sells Superior Tube to private investment firm

COLLEGEVILLE — One of Montgomery County’s oldest family-owned companies has been sold to a private investment firm.

Superior Tube, founded in 1934 by Clarence Warden and S. Landis Gabel to produce small diameter steel tubing for a then-emerging aircraft industry, is now the property of Massachusetts-based The Watermill Group.

In tandem with the purchase of Superior Tube in Collegeville, Watermill acquired Fine Tubes Ltd., located in Plymouth, UK, a company that’s just 9 years younger than the outfit commonly referred to as “the Tube.”

The Warden family had maintained ownership as Superior evolved over the years into a manufacturer specializing in high-precision metal tubing for a variety of blue-chip companies in industries as diverse as nuclear, aerospace and medical.

“This sale represents the end of an era and a change in direction for the company,” noted Superior Tube President and CEO Anthony Jost. “It’s a new chapter for the business and we’re looking forward to putting the synergies together between the three entities.”

More than 3,000 miles from Collegeville, Fine Tubes Managing Director Ronen day noted: “We’re looking forward to sharing best practices with Superior Tube and capitalizing on the natural synergies between our firms to build a stronger global presence. The Watermill Group brings resources to our company that will be key to the next phase of our growth. As Superior Tube and Fine Tubes work more closely together, customers can expect to see significant advancements in our service levels, production capacity and international reach.”

The one unifying aspect of the multifarious industries served by Superior Tube is that they all require a flawless product performing under sometimes extreme operating conditions

Elevating a customer’s perceptions of available services under those conditions is a chief concern, allowed Jost, who has been with Superior in his current capacity since 2006.

“Now that we’re combining the resources of three strong companies we’ll be able to serve customers with a broader selection of high-performance products and improve our responsiveness, which should accelerate growth for both companies,” he said.

A company bio describes Watermill as a firm that has been revitalizing companies to reach their full potential for more than three decades with a combination of “strategic insight and management expertise.”

The onetime owners of Latrobe Specialty Metals Company, Sheffield Steel Corporation and Vertex Distribution, among others, currently sustain a portfolio that includes C&M Corporation, FutureMark Paper Company, Manistique Papers, Inc. and Multilayer Coating Technologies, LLC.

Watermill investor David Robinson was named Chairman of the Board for an umbrella organization that will oversee operations at Superior Tube and Fine Tubes.

“Watermill was attracted to the unique, high quality and technical capabilities of these companies,” noted Steve Carol, Watermill founder and managing partner, in a press release.

“Our vision is to capitalize on the complementary strategic, technical and market strengths at each company to develop a thriving industry leader that can scale its production and grow alongside its customers.”

In its hiring heyday of the 1960s, Superior Tube employed up to 1,000 people, but available jobs gradually dwindled in the ‘80s, ‘90s and early 2000s, Jost said.

It currently employs about 250 people, up from an all-time low of 200.

“There were a lot of challenges when the company went through a lot of downsizing, but for the last three years we’ve been able to grow,” Jost noted. “We have hired as recently as this past month and continue to actively consider select talent to help us achieve our goals.”

This article was originally published by The Times Herald.

October 26, 2012