The multibillion-dollar complex of manufacturing and service businesses known today as Marmon Holdings, Inc. began in 1953 when brothers Jay and Robert Pritzker acquired The Colson Company, a struggling manufacturer with sales of $3.5 million.
Once Colson was restored to profitability, other small companies were acquired. By the early 1960s, the organization comprised a dozen businesses including Marmon-Herrington, a manufacturer of axles and other heavy-duty drivetrain products. Marmon-Herrington was a successor to the Marmon Motor Car Company (1902-1933), an early producer of fine automobiles as well as the car that won the first Indianapolis 500 race in 1911. The Marmon name was adopted for the group of companies in 1964 to connote excellence in innovation, engineering, and performance.
With the 1976 acquisition of Cerro Corporation, Marmon’s revenues doubled to nearly
$1 billion. Marmon’s increasingly diverse portfolio included manufacturers of metal products and components, electrical and electronic wire and cable, retail store fixtures, and more. The 1981 acquisition of Trans Union Corporation added businesses including railroad tank cars, consumer credit information, water treatment systems, fasteners, and other products. Revenues that year approached $3 billion. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Marmon expanded via multiple smaller acquisitions, typically in industries where its companies already had a presence.
Jay Pritzker died in 1999 and Robert Pritzker concluded his five-decade tenure at Marmon in January 2002. Jay’s son Tom Pritzker became Chairman and John Nichols was named CEO. At the start of 2005, TransUnion, a data-based business that was unique within the largely industrial Marmon organization, was established as a stand-alone operation. In January 2006, Frank Ptak succeeded Mr. Nichols as CEO.
Berkshire Hathaway Inc. purchased majority interest in Marmon in 2008 and acquired the remaining minority interests in stages. In January 2013, Marmon was reorganized into three new autonomous operating companies. A year later, IMI’s beverage and merchandising technologies businesses were purchased for $1.1 billion—Marmon’s largest-ever acquisition, in current dollars.