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Culligan International Company
IndustryWater Treatment Products & Service
Founded1936; 87 years ago (1936)
FounderEmmett J. Culligan
HeadquartersRosemont, Illinois
ProductsWater, water softener, water filters, bottled water, bottleless water coolers
OwnerBDT Capital Partners, LLC And 40% stake with Thomas Culligan Jr of Akron,Ohio
Number of employees

Culligan is a United States based global water treatment company with network of dealers and direct operations in 90 countries with 1,000 dealers, over 600 in North America alone, and more than 7,500 employees.


Emmett J. Culligan
Emmett J. Culligan

Culligan was founded in 1936 by Emmett Culligan. With $50 and with additional financing by his brother Dr. John M. Culligan, and his sister, Anna V. Culligan, Emmett established the Culligan Zeolite Company with his brothers Drs. John and Leo Culligan as partners. They started the business in Jack McLaughlin's Blacksmith Shop at Northbrook, Illinois. Emmett perforated the bottom of a coffee can and used greensand to make a water filter. Upon running water through his device, he discovered that the filter acted as a water softener. By 1938, the first Culligan franchised dealership opened in Wheaton, Illinois, followed by another in Hagerstown, Maryland. In 1945, Emmett dissolved the partnership with his brothers and a new company was incorporated. Emmett was president until 1950 when he became chairman of the board and Harold Werhane was made President. In 1962, the name was changed to Culligan, Incorporated. The company now has its international headquarters in Rosemont, Illinois. To date, there are more than 1,000 dealerships and business offices in over 90 countries. For further information refer to the company magazine, "Topics" of July, 1970. Later on, Beatrice Foods acquired the company.

In 1986, Beatrice Foods, newly acquired by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, spun off its specialty foods and non-food brands as E-II Holdings. E-II attempted to take over American Brands in 1988. Instead, American Brands purchased E-II. American Brands later sold the majority of the E-II brands to Meshulam Riklis. Riklis soon left the company, and E-II filed for bankruptcy in 1992. After a takeover battle from Carl Icahn, E-II emerged from bankruptcy in 1993 under the name Astrum International. Culligan was spun off in 1995, and Astrum was renamed Samsonite.

Culligan was acquired by United States Filter in 1998.[1] US Filter was acquired by Vivendi in 1999. Vivendi spun off its water business in 2000, and the resulting company, Veolia Environnement, sold Culligan to Clayton, Dubilier & Rice in 2003. In 2004, Entrepreneur Magazine named Culligan the number one franchise in its industry. In 2007, Culligan's headquarters relocated from Northbrook, IL to its current home in Rosemont, Illinois with the only state-of-the-art analytical laboratory certified by the State of Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to be compliant with National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Conference standards, reflecting the company's commitment to advancements in water treatment. Centerbridge Partners acquired Culligan in 2012.[2]

In 2021, during a bid to buy out the UK supermarket chain Morrisons, in a lawsuit, Culligans accused Clayton, Dubilier & Rice of Asset Stripping, leaving the firm 'saddled with over $850 million of debt',[3] CD&R denied the accusations. In 2021, Culligan was acquired by BDT Capital Partners, LLC.[4]

Company slogan[edit]

Culligan delivery truck with old advertising slogan, Dundee, Michigan

Culligan's first known advertisement was in Life Magazine in 1947.[5] From there, they are best known for a television and radio advertisement featuring a housewife yelling out the slogan "Hey, Culligan Man!" in a raucous tone, in response to the announcer advising her to "Call your Culligan Man." The campaign was originally created in 1959 for radio by Dallas Williams Productions of Los Angeles. He played the straight man in those advertisements, and his wife Jean Hughes Williams provided the shouting voice.[6] Filmmaker Dan Bessie directed and animated the award-winning "Hey, Culligan Man!" soft water commercials for 15 years. Variations of "Hey, Culligan Man!" ads would continue to air for over three decades.

In 2018, Culligan launched a North American re-branding campaign, as Culligan Water, during the Golden Globes with a television advertisement featuring Cary Elwes from The Princess Bride. As of January 7, 2018, the slogan "Hey, Culligan Man!"[7] is now "Hey, Culligan!" in an effort to build "contemporary branding".


  1. ^ "U.S. Filter in $1.5 Billion Deal for Culligan". The New York Times. 10 February 1998.
  2. ^ "Centerbridge to buy Culligan in debt deal-sources". Reuters. 5 June 2012.
  4. ^ "BDT Capital Partners Completes Acquisition of Culligan International". Bloomberg News. 2 August 2021.
  5. ^ "Culligan: A History of Innovation".
  6. ^ "Voice of 'Hey, Culligan Man' Radio Ads Dies". 10 April 1985. Retrieved 25 July 2016 – via LA Times.
  7. ^ Channick, Robert (5 January 2018). "Hey, Culligan! Water company dropping 'man' in pitch to millennial consumers". Retrieved 2019-02-06.