URS Buhler “would not rule out” possibility of public offering sometime in the future
January 01, 1998
by Teresa Acklin
In the course of an interview with Urs Buhler, president and chief executive of Buhler Ltd., the subject of possible public sale of shares in the family-owned business came up. Told that some observers of Buhler's restructuring program that is now under way have speculated that this program might be a prelude to the group “going public,” Mr. Buhler said he would not rule out such a possibility sometime in the future, but that “I'm certainly not in a hurry to do that.”
As the sole owner of Buhler, he said that he has three daughters, ages 19, 17 and 11, and that he has no idea currently of their interest in the business. He said it might certainly be desirable in the future, as a way of caring for the company, to arrange for a partial public offering of a minority share.
He did emphasize that he seeks to manage Buhler so that its performance matches or exceeds that of public companies against which its performance may appropriately be judged. He said he felt very strongly about achieving an adequate level of profitability as absolutely essential for building the business for the future.
Mr. Buhler became chief executive of Buhler, as well as president, in 1987, the year that his father, Dr. Rene Buhler, died. He explained that his father, a well-known and highly regarded figure in flour milling, had owned the company on a 50-50 basis with his brother Adolph. This meant that the ownership in Urs Buhler's generation was initially divided between him and his brother, Max, with 25% each, and the remaining 50% held by Adolph's two sons and one daughter.
When his brother Max died in the same year as their father, Urs Buhler was able to take over his brother's interests. In the intervening years, he did the same with the shares held by his cousins. One of the latter is Hans Peter Buhler, who was active in flour mill engineering for a time until he left the company in 1992 and sold his shares to his cousin.
While being at the helm of Buhler, a group that in 1997 was expected to have revenues of SFr1.5 billion (U.S.$1.1 billion), requires him to be a very active chief executive, Mr. Buhler smilingly acknowledged that engineering is still very much a part of his makeup. As a graduate of the Zurich Institute of Technology, he said he can hardly resist participating in decisions about research and development directions and also in visiting with the engineering staff at work on various projects.
Mr. Buhler is the only family member of the group's board of directors.