The Cooper name has a proud and storied heritage that goes back 100 years to 1914, when brothers-in-law John F. Schaefer and Claude E. Hart purchased M and M Manufacturing Company in Akron, producing tire patches, tire cement and tire repair kits. A year later, Schaefer and Hart purchased The Giant Tire & Rubber Company of Akron, a tire rebuilding business, and two years later moved the business to Findlay, Ohio.
The company grew in subsequent years through mergers, acquisitions and expanding sales. During World War II, the company demonstrated its flexibility and patriotism by converting its “hard goods” department to wartime production.
The firm changed its name to Cooper Tire & Rubber Company in 1946 and by July 11, 1960, the company became a publicly held corporation and was listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Throughout the next five decades, the company expanded its products, manufacturing plants, distribution system and marketplace. The company joined the ranks of Fortune 500 companies in 1983 as one of the largest industrial companies in the United States. Net sales reached $1 billion in 1991.
By 1999, Cooper had 50 manufacturing facilities in nine countries. Much of the company’s growth came through the acquisition of The Standard Products Company, a move that added 10,000 employees to its payroll.
With the purchase of the highly regarded Avon Tyres Limited, based in Melksham, England, in 1997 and the acquisition of Mickey Thompson Performance Tires & Wheels in 2003, Cooper positioned itself as a preeminent producer of high-performance and ultra-high performance tires.
In a December 2003 agreement, Cooper entered a joint venture with Kenda Rubber Industrial Company Ltd. for construction of a plant outside Shanghai, China, to produce radial passenger and light truck tires. Then, returning the company to its core business of tire manufacturing, in December 2004, Cooper completed the sale of its automotive business, Cooper-Standard Automotive, for approximately $1.165 billion. The sale included the 47 manufacturing facilities and operations of Cooper-Standard Automotive, which is a global manufacturer of fluid handling systems, body-sealing systems, and active and passive vibration control systems, primarily for automotive original equipment manufacturers.
The sale in turn provided new opportunities for growth. In January 2005, Cooper announced an agreement to buy 11% interest in Kumho Tire. That month, the company also announced it was forming a new commercial division encompassing both Oliver Rubber Company and commercial tires. In October 2005, the company announced an agreement to obtain 51% ownership in China’s third largest tire manufacturer, Cooper Chengshan (Shandong) Passenger Tire Company Ltd. and Cooper Chengshan (Shandong) Truck Tire Company Ltd. To complement the company’s well-established European operations and product offerings, in January 2012, Cooper acquired the assets of an existing tire plant in Krusevac, Serbia, providing an excellent location to supply tires to the European and Russian markets.
Today Cooper Tire & Rubber Company and its family of companies is truly global, boasting more than 65 manufacturing, sales, distribution, technical and design facilities located around the world. But the company is hardly resting on past success. Cooper continues to improve plant efficiencies while capitalizing on its strong customer service and dealer relationships in North America; expanding its distribution network in Europe; and marketing Cooper Tires as a top brand in China. New products are driving increased sales and creating additional opportunity and growth potential.
This is an exciting time for Cooper as it continues to study opportunities in rapidly developing regions of the world. Continued change is inevitable for Cooper. One thing that won’t change, however, is the company’s focus on delighting customers and increasing shareholder value.