Outboard Marine Employees are Cautiously Optimistic

OMC Employees are
Cautiously Optimistic


Chicago Tribune
Thursday, July 10, 1997 
Business Section, page 4
By Dennis O'Brien, Tribune Staff Writer.  
Unlike many employees after their company has been acquired by another, workers at Waukegan-based Outboard Marine Corp. reacted to Detroit Diesel Corp.'s $500 million buyout of their firm with guarded optimism.

The cash-strapped maker of boats and boat engines had been listing following successive waves of quarterly losses and taking on $180 million in debt.

As they ate lunch on picnic tables near OMC's waterfront campus Wednesday, some employees said they thought the Detroit Diesel purchase and a subsequent infusion of cash would right the sinking company's course.

"They're a company like us," said Kurt Kleine, 47, who works at OMC's employee service center. "They came back from being in that position, and, hopefully, we'll turn this thing around and make it profitable."

Detroit Diesel was spun off from General Motors Corp. in 1988. Its market share for tractor-trailer engines at the time was 3 percent. Now, it is more than 30 percent.

Outboard Marine, which was founded by Norwegian immigrant Ole Evinrude in 1909 after developing the outboard motor, is still reeling from a recession that broadsided the boating industry in the early 1990s.

In April, the company said it had hired Salomon Brothers Inc. to shop the company around.

"We had been waiting for a little over two months," said OMC spokeswoman Marlena Cannon. "Everybody's known there would be a buyer, that there would be a `who,' it was just a matter of inserting the buyer's name into the `who' blank."

"The reaction to it being Detroit Diesel has been good," she said.

Many OMC employees were tight-lipped about their reactions to the sale, though those tight lips often stretched over optimistic grins accompanied by shrugs of uncertainty and crossed fingers.

"The recreation industry goes up and down with trends," said one 29-year OMC veteran who asked not to be identified. "We need a mother company to carry us through the bad times."

Copyright 1997 The Tribune Company

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