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Help wanted: Universal Forest Products seeks CEO

BY HBSDealer Staff

Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Universal Forest Products has announced that CEO Michael Glenn is retiring due to health reasons and to make way for new leadership to "build on Universal’s strengths and prepare for future opportunity." The board of directors is currently in the process of evaluating candidates for the position. Glenn, who was appointed CEO in 2006, has agreed to stay on until a new CEO is named.

"I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish in the toughest years in our 56-year history," said Glenn, who has been with the company for 37 years. "I’m proud we were able to generate cash flow, pay off more than $320 million of debt, and remain profitable at a time when others in our industry were struggling to survive. 

"But closing or consolidating nearly 30 operations and cutting thousands of employees as we implemented strategies to carry us into the future have taken a toll," he added, "and for the sake of my family and of my health, I decided it was time to hand over the reins to new leadership, who will build on Universal’s strengths and prepare for future opportunity." 

Chairman William Currie said: “The board thanks Mike for his many contributions to Universal. He created success in plants, regions and divisions in his long career at Universal.”

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Existing-home sales decline 3.8% in May

BY Ken Clark

Existing-home sales fell 3.8% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.81 million in May, compared with a downwardly revised 5 million in April, according to statistics released today by the National Association of Realtors.

“Spiking gasoline prices along with widespread severe weather hurt house shopping in April, leading to soft figures for actual closings in May,” said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun.

Compared with the 5.68 million pace of May 2010, which benefited from a surge of sales to beat a deadline for the home buyer tax credit, the current reading is down 15.3%.

“Current housing market activity indicates a very slow pace of broader economic activity, but recent reversals in oil prices are likely to mitigate the impact going forward," Yun said. "The pace of sales activity in the second half of the year is expected to be stronger than the first half, and will be much stronger than the second half of last year.” 

Meanwhile, the median existing-home price for all housing types in May was $166,500, down 4.6% from May 2010. Distressed homes accounted for 31% of sales in May, down from 37% in April.

Total housing inventory at the end of May fell 1.0% to 3.72 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 9.3-month supply at the current sales pace, up from a 9-month supply in April. 

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Private equity firm buys Weyerhaeuser’s hardwood division

BY Brae Canlen

Weyerhaeuser has entered into an agreement with American Industrial Partners (AIP), a private equity firm, to sell its worldwide hardwoods and industrial products business unit, for an undisclosed price. The future business will operate as Northwest Hardwoods, Inc., headquartered in Tacoma, Wash., with operations in the United States, Canada, China, Japan and Hong Kong. 

The transaction is expected to close in August of this year.

The hardwoods and industrials products division employs approximately 1,000 workers and manufactures 15 species of hardwood lumber, including alder, oak, maple, cherry, walnut, ash and hickory. It owns and operates a network of seven primary sawmills, four concentration yards, four remanufacturing plants and one merchandizing log yard, all in the United States.

Revenues for the hardwood lumber products alone, according to Weyerhaeuser’s 2010 annual report, were $223 million, an 8.2% increase over sales of $206 million in 2009.

David Weyerhaeuser, VP sales and marketing of Northwest Hardwoods, noted, "Our customers have been extremely loyal to us over many decades, and we very much appreciate that. As a stand-alone company we expect to offer our customers flexibility, fast market response times, continuity of supply and an entrepreneurial ‘can do’ attitude.” 

A spokesman for AIP, John Stanwood, said in a prepared statement: “[North Hardwoods] revenues are related to housing starts and general repair and remodeling in the housing sector. As these depressed markets improve in the years ahead, the company is well positioned to meet the demand with its excellent hardwood timber supply relationships and extensive, modern and low-cost manufacturing footprint."

Founded in 1989, American Industrial Partners is a leading middle-market private equity firm, which makes control investments in North American-based industrial businesses. AIP invests when it can significantly impact business value through the implementation of an operating agenda developed in collaboration with its partners, advisory board and the company’s management team. Its current portfolio includes Allied Specialty Vehicles, Brooks Instruments, Ichor Systems, Mark Andy and Micro-Poise.

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