Shareholders in blue collars
UNION Werkzeugmaschinen GmbH Chemnitz is a manufacturer of machine tools, with a particular focus upon boring mills and machining centres. It used to be a state-owned enterprise in the former East Germany until it was privatised after reunification in 1990. This proved the start of an unfortunate period. Union suffered twice from the bankruptcy of its parent company. In 1996, 110 employees each put up a substantial amount of money to acquire a share in the business. UNION required new capital but banks were reluctant because of the new ownership structure.
Nimbus took a completely different view of the shareholder situation. Rather than seeing it as a problem, we regarded it as a tremendous opportunity. In return for our investment, we acquired just under 70 per cent of the company – a split all parties felt comfortable with. The employee shareholders pooled their equity in a new holding company, with one member of staff serving as its director, an arrangement that facilitated communication between shareholders.
With the investment in place, it was immediately decided to expand the UNION plant with a high-ceiling section where it could start producing the larger machines – up to seven metres high – the market was asking for. Other strategic goals were sales increase, better service and increasing operational excellence. Today, UNION is a superb brand in the market for machine tools.