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|Traded as||NYSE: KOP
S&P 600 Component
|Industry||Chemicals Railroad ties and other products railroad bridge construction and repair wood preservation|
|Founded||1912 (original company) 1988 (re-established)|
|Leroy M. Ball, President and Chief Executive Officer
Steven R. Lacy Senior Vice President, Administration, General Counsel and Secretary,
Michael J. Zugay, Chief Financial Officer
James A. Sullivan, Senior Vice President, Global Carbon Materials and Chemicals
Thomas D. Loadman, Vice President and General Manager, Railroad and Utility Products and Services.
Paul Goydan, Senior Vice President, Performance Chemicals,
David Hillenbrand Chairman of the Board of Directors
|Revenue||$1.16 billion USD|
Number of employees
The corporation is divided into three business units: Carbon and Chemicals, Railroad Products and Services, and Performance Chemicals. The company specialises in manufacturing carbon chemicals from coal tar. The five main chemicals that are produced are coal pitch for steel and aluminum production, carbon black for rubber vulcanization, creosote for wood treatment, and naphthalene and phthalic anhydride for plastics and polyester. Kopper's coal tar pitches are essential to manufacturing carbon anodes for aluminum smelting. Koppers also has extensive operations making creosote treated wood products, especially railroad ties and switches. Utility poles, foundations, decking materials, and wooden panneling are also produced by the company.
In 1912 immigrant German engineer Heinrich Koppers founded Koppers Inc. in Chicago, Illinois. In 1915 the organization moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The company founder's interest in the company was bought out by Pittsburgh financier A.W. Mellon, who became a large shareholder. The landmark Koppers Building in downtown Pittsburgh opened in 1929.
In 1943, Koppers, at the US Government's behest, built a factory in Kobuta, Pennsylvania on the left bank of the Ohio River just downriver from Beaver, to manufacture styrene-butadiene monomer, a building block used to make a form of synthetic rubber for the World War II defense effort.
In 1951, at Port Arthur, Texas, the company built a plant to manufacture the chemical monomer ethylbenzene, using as raw materials ethylene from the nearby Gulf Oil refinery, and benzene, which was a byproduct of the company's coke ovens in Pennsylvania and which was shipped down to Texas by barge. The ethylbenzene produced there was then shipped by barge back up to the Kobuta plant where it was converted to styrene monomer, and then polymerized to make expandable polystyrene. In the early 1950s, the company purchased a license to manufacture polyethylene at its Port Arthur plant. These chemical operations later were the basis for forming a new corporate entity with Sinclair Oil Corporation to form the Sinclair-Koppers Company in 1965.
In 2001, the company had to close down a wood treatment plant in Oroville, California due to contamination of the 205 acre facility, and the surrounding area. Chemicals like PCP and chromium were found to have been leaked into the local drinking water supply.
Beazer hostile takeover
In early 1988 Beazer, a British conglomerate run by one of the foremost corporate raiders of the 1980s, successfully launched a hostile takeover of Koppers for $1.81 billion ($3.8 billion today). The sale was completed on June 17, 1988. A smaller, more streamlined domestic business unit of Koppers was bought back by local management in the early 2000s, and although much simpler than the once sprawling chemical and aggregate conglomerate of the early-to-mid 20th century, Koppers has once again become successful at its core businesses. In 2006 the new Beazer-free independent Koppers again went public .
Current business interests
Koppers operates facilities in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Denmark, Australia, China, South Africa. The coal tar processor Cindu Chemicals in the Netherlands was acquired in 2010. Koppers sources coal tar from around the world for further processing by distillation into carbon chemicals. Its Monessen, Pennsylvania coke ovens have a combined annual capacity of over 360,000 tons. The company further operates coke ovens in Tangshan, People's Republic of China, and has co-located facilities near the operations of major steel makers.
One of Koppers' leading products is coal tar. Asphalt sealants containing coal tar have high levels of benzo(a)pyrene and other toxic chemicals known collectively as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs.
- Gannon, Joyce. Historical perspective: As Koppers Building marks 75 years, the iconic structure also marks changes in region. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Sunday, November 14, 2004.
- "Kopper Holdings buys Cindu Chemicals", www.businessweek.com, The Associated Press, 2 March 2010
- Chicago Tribune, January 15, 2011, New Doubts Cast on Safety of Common Driveway Sealant, by Michael Hawthorne, http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/ct-met-toxic-coal-tar-sealant-20110115,0,7422954,full.story