Packaging entrepreneur, 84, to sell family firm for $100M

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A Columbus entrepreneur who started his container-production business from scratch in 1975 is selling it for $100 million.

Bob Haddad Sr., founder of Columbus Container Inc., has reached an agreement to sell the company to Lake-Forest, Illinois-based Packaging Corporation of America. The cash deal is expected to close in late November.

Haddad and his wife, Helen, started Columbus Container in 1975. The company now has 300 employees, most of whom work in Columbus. The rest are employed at a handful of facilities in Indiana and Illinois, including Indianapolis, Seymour, Edinburg, Jasper and the Illinois city of Flora. About 10 people work at the Indianapolis warehouse.

Haddad said he and his wife are both 84, and he still works eight to 10 hours a day.

“I enjoy it. I love it,” Haddad said.

“Sometimes I go out and work on machines with employees, still.”

Haddad said he plans to stay on with the company for at least six months to ensure a smooth transition.

PCA has agreed to retain all Columbus Container employees for at least a year after the deal closes, Haddad said.

This point was important to Haddad, who said his company has never conducted an employee layoff. The Columbus Container name will also continue, he said. 

“I owe a lot to my customers. I owe a lot to my employees,” Haddad said.

Haddad worked for another box company earlier in his career. When that company wanted to move him from Columbus to Chicago, Haddad decided to quit and start his own company.

Haddad said he hopes his career sets an example to young people that if you have a dream, you can achieve it.

“Don’t wait around for the government or somebody,” Haddad advised. “Go do it yourself.”

In 2002, the Haddads established the Haddad Foundation, which is based in Columbus. The group has supported dozens of arts, education and health related organizations in Bartholomew County and across central Indiana, including Harrison Center for the Arts and Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.

The foundation will continue to operate, Haddad said.

In a statement, PCA Chairman and CEO Mark Kowlzan said Columbus Container will be “a great strategic fit” for PCA.

“This acquisition will further enhance our operations both geographically and strategically through additional integration and optimization of our warehousing and logistics capabilities,” Kowlzan said.

PCA is the fourth-largest producer of containerboard and corrugated packaging products in the U.S. It is also North America’s third-largest producer of uncoated freesheet paper. 

The company’s net sales to third parties totaled $4.5 billion in 2015.

PCA operates eight mills and 95 corrugated products plants and related facilities. Its Indiana facilities include manufacturing sites in Gas City and Vincennes.


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