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Russell 1000 Component
GenreChemical distribution company
FoundedSeattle, Washington, United States (1924 (1924))
FounderGeorge Van Waters and Nat S. Rogers
Number of locations
Key people
Stephen D. Newlin, chairman, president and chief executive officer
Revenue$9 billion (2015)[1]
  • IncreaseUS$269(2015)
  • US$214.8(2014)
  • IncreaseUS$16.5M (2015)
  • US$(20.1)M (2014)
OwnerCVC Capital Partners, Clayton, Dubilier & Rice
Number of employees
8,600 [2] (2017)

Univar is a global chemical and ingredients distributor and provider of value-added services who works with leading suppliers worldwide. The company was founded in 1924 and as of 2016, it employed approximately 8,700 employees worldwide and generated net sales of $8.073 billion in 2016.[1][3]


Univar truck.jpg

On August 8, 1924, George Van Waters and Nat Rogers opened a small firm in Seattle, Washington, USA, buying and selling naval supplies, paint, raw materials and cotton linters. When Van Waters & Rogers entered the laundry supply business, it paved the way for the company’s future in chemicals. Near the end of the 1920s, the company moved into a 5,000-square-foot (460 m2) facility just south of downtown Seattle and, soon after, it expanded into the entire facility and plant next door. In 1936, Van Waters & Rogers’ sales topped $1 million, and by the end of the decade the company was closing on the $2 million mark. Locations were added in Portland, Oregon, Spokane, Washington and Los Angeles, California. A notable addition was the industrial chemicals division headed by Glen McElvain, a chemical salesman who was instrumental in the acquisition of local chemical companies. In the 1940s, sales increased from $2 million in 1940 to more than $18 million in 1949[citation needed]. Acquisitions led to market entries in San Francisco and Texas and the first two women were appointed to officer positions. In 1949, Van Waters & Rogers celebrated its 25th anniversary.

Univar acquired Industrial Materials Ltd. of Vancouver, British Columbia, and Braun-Knecht-Heimann of San Francisco in 1950. In 1956, Van Waters & Rogers made its first public stock offering. By the end of the decade, Van Waters & Rogers had locations in all 11 western states, Texas and Western Canada. Sales climbed from $18 million to more than $80 million in 1959[citation needed].

In the 1960s, company headquarters relocated to San Francisco for a brief period. By mid-decade, shareholders approved the merger of Van Waters & Rogers and United Pacific Corporation. In 1966, Van Waters & Rogers became VWR United and the decade ended with the company's listing on the New York Stock Exchange on March 6, 1969.

At the March 25, 1970 board meeting, co-founder Nat Rogers retired from the company and later that same year, Jim Wiborg became CEO. As leadership changed, so did the company’s name. The name "Univar" was adopted in 1974 and the company continued to expand through acquisitions with the stated goal of becoming a national distributor. The most important acquisition was the purchase of McArthur Chemical, which established Univar as a major distributor throughout Canada.

In the 1980s, Univar became North America's largest chemical distributor and sales topped $1 billion[citation needed]. Responding to new government regulations and environmental concerns, the company focused on product stewardship and introduced ChemCare, a waste management service. Univar acquired McKesson Chemical with financial backing from Royal Pakhoed and, combined, the two distribution giants formed a coast-to-coast network of more than 100 locations in the United States and Canada.

Acquisitions led to further expansion as Univar acquired four chemical distribution companies in Europe, forming Univar Europe. In 1996, Royal Pakhoed acquired Univar, and it merged with Royal Van Ommeren in 1999 to become Royal Vopak.

Detroit-Romulus Distribution Facility, Romulus, MI

Univar focused on industries that were population-based, such as food, pharmaceuticals, personal care, coatings and energy. Univar hired specialists, scientists and PhDs to assist customers with product formulations and technical solutions. Growth continued through the acquisition of Ellis & Everard, which included operations in the UK, Ireland and North America. In 2002, Univar split off from Royal Vopak as an independent company and world leader in chemical distribution. In 2007, Univar purchased a leading competitor, CHEMCENTRAL and became a privately held company, owned primarily by funds managed or advised by London-based CVC Capital Partners.[4] Univar ended the decade with $7.2 billion in net sales from the distribution of approximately 5.4 million metric tons of chemicals in 2009.[5]

In 2010, Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, LLC acquired a 42.5% ownership interest in Univar and the company continued to grow. It acquired US-based Basic Chemical Solutions, a global distributor and trader of commodity chemicals, and the Quaron distribution business in Belgium and the Netherlands, in 2010 and 2011, respectively.

In 2013, Univar moved its corporate headquarters from Redmond to Downers Grove, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. In June 2014, Univar filed for a $100 million initial public offering.[6]

In June 2016, it was announced that Univar had joined the Fortune 500 for the first time.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Univar 2016 Year In Review". s2.q4cdn.com. Retrieved 2017-08-09.
  2. ^ "Univar". Fortune. Retrieved 2018-12-14.
  3. ^ "Univar Inc. - Investors - Financial Information - Annual Reports". investor.univar.com. Retrieved 2017-01-13.
  4. ^ "CVC Capital Partners to Absorb Univar". www.forbes.com. July 9, 2007. Retrieved 2011-05-24.
  5. ^ "Univar- Company Profile". univar.com. Retrieved 2011-02-01.
  6. ^ Univar files for $100 million IPO
  7. ^ "Here Are The 15 New Companies Joining The Fortune 500". fortune.com. 2016-06-06. Retrieved 2016-06-07.

External links[edit]