Gerber Plumbing Fixtures Corp., completed a transaction in February in which most of its assets were sold to a new entity, Gerber Plumbing Fixtures LLC. While Globe Union Group is the majority owner of Gerber Plumbing Fixtures LLC, Gerber will operate as a stand-alone subsidiary of Globe Union, with its own profit and loss statement.

Financial terms of the transaction were not announced. Gerber's 2002 revenues exceeded $100 million.

Ila Lewis, granddaughter of founder Max Gerber, will remain chairman.

She and certain other members of the Gerber family continue to hold a significant ownership stake in the new company.

Frank J. Feraco has been named president and chief operating officer of the new company. Most recently he was president/COO of Pentair Tools Group, where he led a major restructuring. During his career he was CEO of Kohler Co.'s Sterling Group subsidiary and took charge of Kohler's worldwide plumbing operations, overseeing its growth in Asia, Australia, Latin America, Europe and Africa.

Gerber will continue with its long-standing practice of selling only through wholesalers, Lewis said.

"Wholesalers, whether they are involved in the commercial or residential markets, are the lifeblood of our business," Feraco said. "That will not change."

Other than the new president/COO, current management will remain in place, Lewis said.

"There will be some minor changes (in management functions) but nothing major for at least the next 12 months," Feraco said.

The company will remain headquartered in Lincolnwood, Ill.

The most immediate change at Gerber will be an expanded product base, Feraco said. Initially he will focus on three areas: product innovations, cost reductions and a brand strategy. With manufacturing both in the United States and in other countries such as Asia, Gerber and Globe Union have a cost advantage, Feraco pointed out.

"Globe Union has knowledge of the plumbing industry and about faucets and fittings, which is half of our business," Lewis said. "They can maintain our high level of quality and infuse us with design elements."

Gerber was attractive to Globe Union on a number of levels, said Michael E. Werner, president/CEO of Globe Union.

"It is a great company with a terrific heritage and a strong brand; strong enough, in fact, to be the platform for a broader set of product offerings in the future," Werner commented. "Plumbers know and trust the Gerber name. We believe Gerber will be an even more prominent brand in the years to come because it now has the management, financial strength and manufacturing partner it needs. Gerber also has excellent distribution, built upon many decades of going the extra mile for its customers. I grew up in my family's business, Werner Ladder Co., and I appreciate what makes a family business special. GlobeUnion will work very hard to maintain the unique and positive attributes of Gerber."

The company also will look outside for potential acquisitions that could be blended into Gerber LLC and Globe Union, Feraco said.

"We have found partners that can take Gerber where it deserves to be," Lewis said. "Gerber was attractive to Globe Union because of our 71-year history, family-run business and the wonderful relationships we have established with customers through wholesale distribution. When the transition phase is over, I hope to spend more time out there with our customers. The people equation is still most important in any business."