ASC Inc., the company founded by entrepreneur Heinz Prechter that pioneered the sunroof market in North America, is being sold to an investment fund headed by financier Jay Alix.
Questor Management Co. LLC's purchase, expected to close within two weeks, will include:
ASC is a supplier of sunroofs, convertible tops, niche vehicles and vehicle prototypes.
The businesses have a total annual revenue of an estimated $500 million. The sale affects at least 18 plants and about 2,500 employees.
The deal marks the exit of one of the few remaining family-owned auto suppliers. Prechter died July 6, and ownership passed to his widow, Wally Prechter.
"ASC is a strong, healthy and growing company that is experiencing a number of significant changes," said Alix, co-founder and principal of Questor, of Southfield, Mich.
ASC, formerly American Sunroof Co., is the third automotive sector company Alix has signed purchase agreements with this year.
The others are stamping companies Zenith Industrial Corp. of Clinton Township, Mich., and Aetna Industries Inc. of Center Line, Mich. The two had combined sales of $325 million in 2001.
The ASC deal is the largest of the three, but Alix declined to discuss the purchase price, terms or the cash he needs to put into ASC to expand its open-air systems and niche vehicle businesses.
ASC Chairman David Treadwell, who will remain with the company along with other senior managers, said ASC needed outside equity to finance its growth. Privately held ASC, like most private companies, has little access to the public capital markets.
ASC, which posted estimated global sales of more than $300 million last year, had been searching for an equity partner or buyer since last year. ASC had approached Alix last year about a deal.
The talks, which were interrupted by Prechter's death, were completed Thursday, May 2.
Questor's investment fund, Questor Partners Funds, which has more than $1.1 billion in capital, buys and sells companies. ASC will be sold, but Alix gave no deadline.
Questor expects to help ASC with its growing niche-vehicle business. ASC has won four niche-vehicle contracts from General Motors, including work on the Chevrolet SSR, the first of those programs. It is designing and building the retractable hardtop and participating in the overall design, engineering and assembly of the pickup.
Sale in ASC's future
ASC grew rapidly after Prechter, a German immigrant who built a small California sunroof company, was selected by Ford Motor Co. to install 300 electrically powered steel sunroofs in the 1968 Mercury Cougar XR-7.
He then steered ASC into a variety of custom treatments for production cars and built a booming aftermarket sunroof business. At one time, ASC had 31 plants that modified 350,000 cars a year for automakers. ASC added vinyl tops, created special editions and designed concepts and prototypes.
But the specialty that Prechter launched in North America in 1965 has since become a crowded field with competitors from Europe and Japan.