NYT: Airgas CEO Holds His Ground, Sells For 2X Original $5B Offer


Peter McCausland, the founder of Airgas, at his 450-acre farm outside Philadelphia. (Image via the New York Times)

When Peter McCausland refused to sell Airgas, a leading distributor of industrial, medical and specialty gases in a bitter hostile $5 billion takeover battle with Air Products & Chemicals six years ago, many criticized his decisions as ill-conceived, writes Leslie Picker for The New York Times.

However, when the Radnor company was sold to Air Liquide in May for twice the amount, critics were silenced and the industry was shaken. In an interview with The New York Times, McCausland talks about running the company, and what finally prompted its reluctant sale.

McCausland started his industrial gas business over three decades ago, when he bought his first gas distributor for $5 million and grew through further acquisitions. Soon he ran into an issue with Air Products which owned part of one of the acquired companies.

That was the start of a decade’s long clash between two Pennsylvania-based industrial gas foes. It culminated in an attempted hostile takeover of Airgas in 2009 which ultimately failed in the courts.

Last year, however, Airgas was confronted with yet another challenge. Activist investor Elliott Management emerged as a shareholder and with Air Products was still circling, McCausland decided to take matters into his own hands.

After meeting with numerous bidders, Air Liquide made an all-cash offer that he accepted. This allowed McCausland to leave the company with most jobs intact and almost $1 billion in his own pocket.

“Would I have been happier just becoming non-executive chairman and staying involved with Airgas? I think I probably would,” he said. “But under the circumstances, we got the best result.”

Read the full interview with Airgas founder at The New York Times by clicking here.

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