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1987 FIN – Turnbull’s Tri-West Acquires Tennessee Bolt

June 25
00:00 2009

1987 FIN – Turnbull’s Tri-West Acquires Tennessee Bolt

April 14, 1987 FIN – Detroit-based Tri-West Products Inc. acquired Tennessee Bolt & Screw Co. of Memphis.
Tri-West and its president, Michael L. Turnbull, both turn 40 in 1987. Turnbull had no fastener experience when he bought Tri-West a decade ago. After graduating from Vanderbilt University Turnbull got into commercial banking and was a loan officer in Detroit. Turnbull told FIN he wanted to head his own business and when he heard from an accountant friend that Tri-West was for sale, he contacted owner George Zerbel and closed the deal in September 1977. Help in financing the purchase was provided by Turnbull’s family, which was in the real estate and apartment management business. Turnbull persuaded Zerbel to stay on for five years.
Also on hand to help the 29-year-old Turnbull learn the ropes were Dick Luce, who handled purchasing and Bud Hardow in sales. Both were given equity in the company in the form on non-voting stock.
Luce is still with the company. Hardow retired last year. Tri-West, which got its name from the three states (Michigan, Indiana and Ohio) in which it did most of its business, is a distributor with about 20 major manufacturing sources of specialty and proprietary fasteners.
Tri-West sells mostly to auto subcontractors (stampers, injection molders, etc) in production quantities. The average invoice is between $1,200 and $1,500.
There are 23 employees and the annual sales per employee is an impressive $325,000. Inventory turns have been 8 to 10 times annually in recent years. While Tri-West was doing a good business selling to auto subcontractors, Turnbull told FIN he didn’t feel comfortable with all his eggs in one basket and has expanded the company’s line and has gotten the company into other market areas such as the furniture and office equipment fields. In 1986 Turnbull, who knew Bill Gassway through their mutual membership in the National Fastener Distributors Association, began discussions about the possibility of Tri-West purchasing that 37-year-old fastener house.
Not only did Tennessee Bolt have a fine reputation in the industry, but also it would provide Tri-West with a manufacturing base (cold heading of #6 to 3/8 diameter screws up to 4 inches long), its own plating facility and a source of imported fastener products (Tri-West has sold only domestic products).
In late 1986, the purchase was completed with Gassaway agreeing to stay on with the company for five years. Gassaway keeps his title as president with Turnbull assuming the newly established chairman post.
Gassaway has recovered nicely from triple bypass surgery. Turnbull has reorganized Tennessee Bolt into four divisions, each with its own general manager.
The manufacturing and plating division is headed by Richard Wyke; the maintenance division headed by Gary Baltimore; the Memphis division headed by Buddy Thomas; and the Nashville division by Gerald Toledo.
All of these managers were with Tennessee Bolt before its acquisition by Tri-West. Tri-West and Tennessee Bolt are now both owned by a recently established holding group called TWP Holding Corp., which is 80% owned by Turnbull. Turnbull told FIN he hopes to put together a number of other deals like the Tri-West/Tennessee Bolt tie up in the future and already has some possibilities in mind.
Turnbull was just elected president of the 180-member National Fastener Distributors Association at its annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee. ©1987/2009 Fastener Industry News.
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