Dec 12, 2023

Wilbert Plastic Services adjusts to changes with new owner, leadership

Wilbert Plastic Services Inc. is undergoing some changes that came as part of the $11.6 billion acquisition of its parent company, Alleghany Corp., in 2022 by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

It is now part of a different unit within the Berkshire Hathaway businesses and will have a new leader as Greg Botner plans to step down March 31.

Alleghany subsidiary Alleghany Capital Corp. included thermoformer and injection molder Wilbert Plastic Services Inc. and injection molder Wilbert Funeral Services Inc. The two Wilbert companies, which started out as Wilbert Inc., are no longer related operationally, but maintain business connections and report to the same parent.

As with any companies Berkshire Hathaway enfolds, it's complicated.

Wilbert Funeral Services of Overland, Kan., mainly makes concrete vaults, but in 2022 bought some assets of Carrera Manufacturing: W&M Manufacturing and Pier-Mac Plastics Inc., both of Portland, Ind. It renamed the companies Astral Molding & Finishing, which became part of Wilbert's Astral Caskets division.

AMF, based in Lynn, Ind., makes metal caskets and plastic casket accessories such as handles and decorative items. Astral has 28 injection presses with clamping forces of 110 to 750 tons, as well as 10 vacuum metalizers to plate the plastic parts.

AMF also makes some automotive and consumer products that it sells to retailers and other companies, Astral Caskets President Don Robinson said in a March 23 telephone interview.

Wilbert Plastic Services Inc. (WPS) provides thermoformed casket liners to Wilbert Funeral Services, but also supplies a variety of products to customers in industrial, transportation, medical, commercial and recreational markets.

Both Wilbert companies are now part of Berkshire Hathaway's Marmon Holdings Inc.; WPS is listed under transportation holdings while WFS falls under industrial. WPS was acquired and integrated in October, but the funeral services business just shifted from Alleghany to Marmon in January and is still settling in, Robinson said.

"We will be transitioning into the opportunities Marmon offers to us, which are vast," he added.

Mark Bates, Wilbert Funeral Services CEO, expects to see increases in performance and profitability under Marmon.

"They have more tools in their bag for us to use, and a reputation for being very effective in operations and financial management. They have strong discipline in those areas and our company will benefit from them," Bates said by phone.

There will be some adjusting at WPS as Botner, CEO and president, just announced he will be retiring from the company March 31, though he said he anticipates returning to the business world after a brief break.

"After 40-plus years in manufacturing, I'll take a month or two off," Botner said March 29 by phone. "Business is in my blood and I plan to be involved in something going forward — maybe acquire a business myself" or accept a directorship position.

Botner said Brian Diaz will be overseeing WPS. Diaz is president of another Berkshire Hathaway company, automotive molder Prism Plastics Inc. in Chesterfield, Mich.

Botner has a background in both plastics and metal, so his options are open.

"I thought about taking the T-shirt shop route," he quipped.

He joined WPS as a director in 2007 and has been in his current roles since 2008. Sales doubled in 15 years under his leadership.

"I had a good and successful run these last 15 years at Wilbert Plastic Services. I'm very proud of the company we built and I'll miss the management teams. But being part of the Marmon Group is good for the financial health of the company; it gives them the opportunity to expand and move forward."

WPS had 2022 thermoforming sales of $95 million, placing it at No. 31 in the Plastics News ranking. PN estimated the firm's injection molding sales for that year at $110 million, placing it at No. 77 in that ranking.

PN has not ranked WFS.

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