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Univar Solutions Inc. is a global chemical and ingredients distributor and provider of value-added services. The company was founded in 1924 as Van Waters & Rogers. It was also formerly known as Royal Vopak and later Univar. The company changed its name to Univar Solutions following the acquisition of Nexeo Solutions in 2019.
|Industry||Chemicals and Ingredients Distribution|
|Genre||Chemical and Ingredient distribution company|
|Founded||Seattle, Washington, U.S. (1924 )|
|Founder||George Van Waters and Nat S. Rogers|
Number of locations
|Christopher D. Pappas, Chairman, David C. Jukes, president and chief executive officer|
|Products||Chemicals and Ingredients|
|Revenue||US$8.265 billion (2020)|
Number of employees
|9,457  (2020)|
On August 8, 1924, George Van Waters and Nat Rogers opened a small firm in Seattle, Washington, USA, buying and selling naval supplies, paint, raw materials and cotton linters. When Van Waters & Rogers entered the laundry supply business, it paved the way for the company’s future in chemicals. Near the end of the 1920s, the company moved into a 5,000-square-foot (460 m2) facility just south of downtown Seattle and, soon after, it expanded into the entire facility and plant next door. In 1936, Van Waters & Rogers’ sales topped $1 million, and by the end of the decade the company was closing on the $2 million mark. Locations were added in Portland, Oregon, Spokane, Washington and Los Angeles, California. A notable addition was the industrial chemicals division headed by Glen McElvain, a chemical salesman who was instrumental in the acquisition of local chemical companies. In the 1940s, sales increased from $2 million in 1940 to more than $18 million in 1949. Acquisitions led to market entries in San Francisco and Texas and the first two women were appointed to officer positions. In 1949, Van Waters & Rogers celebrated its 25th anniversary.
Univar acquired Industrial Materials Ltd. of Vancouver, British Columbia, and Braun-Knecht-Heimann of San Francisco in 1950. In 1956, Van Waters & Rogers made its first public stock offering. By the end of the decade, Van Waters & Rogers had locations in all 11 western states, Texas and Western Canada. Sales climbed from $18 million to more than $80 million in 1959.
In the 1960s, company headquarters relocated to San Francisco for a brief period. By mid-decade, shareholders approved the merger of Van Waters & Rogers and United Pacific Corporation. In 1966, Van Waters & Rogers became VWR United and the decade ended with the company's listing on the New York Stock Exchange on March 6, 1969.
At the March 25, 1970 board meeting, co-founder Nat Rogers retired from the company and later that same year, Jim Wiborg became CEO. As leadership changed, so did the company’s name. The name "Univar" was adopted in 1974 and the company continued to expand through acquisitions with the stated goal of becoming a national distributor. The most important acquisition was the purchase of McArthur Chemical, which established Univar as a major distributor throughout Canada.
In the 1980s, Univar became North America's largest chemical distributor and sales topped $1 billion. Responding to new government regulations and environmental concerns, the company focused on product stewardship and introduced ChemCare, a waste management service. Univar acquired McKesson Chemical with financial backing from Royal Pakhoed and, combined, the two distribution giants formed a coast-to-coast network of more than 100 locations in the United States and Canada.
Acquisitions led to further expansion as Univar acquired four chemical distribution companies in Europe, forming Univar Europe. In 1996, Royal Pakhoed acquired Univar, and it merged with Royal Van Ommeren in 1999 to become Royal Vopak.
Univar focused on industries that were population-based, such as food, pharmaceuticals, personal care, coatings and energy. Univar hired specialists, scientists and PhDs to assist customers with product formulations and technical solutions. Growth continued through the acquisition of Ellis & Everard, which included operations in the UK, Ireland and North America. In 2002, Univar split off from Royal Vopak as an independent company and world leader in chemical distribution. In 2007, Univar purchased a leading competitor, CHEMCENTRAL and became a privately held company, owned primarily by funds managed or advised by London-based CVC Capital Partners. Univar ended the decade with $1.2 billion in net sales from the distribution of approximately 2.7 billion metric tons of chemicals in 2009.
In 2010, Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, LLC acquired a 42.5% ownership interest in Univar and the company continued to grow. It acquired US-based Basic Chemical Solutions, a global distributor and trader of commodity chemicals, and the Quaron distribution business in Belgium and the Netherlands, in 2010 and 2011, respectively.
Univar's shareholders approved the company's acquisition of Nexeo Solutions in February 2019. Following completion of the acquisition, Univar rebranded itself as Univar Solutions on March 1, 2019. In December of the same year, Univar sold its North American Environmental Sciences division to AEA Investors.
On April 9, 2019, Univar USA Inc. agreed to pay $62.5 million to settle allegations of the US Department of Justice. According to the investigations, the company evaded antidumping duties on 36 shipments of Chinese saccharin between 2007 and 2012.
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