The Cooper name has a proud and storied heritage that goes back more than 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 origins of the Cooper name go back to 1920, when Ira J. Cooper, a director for the company Schaefer and Hart founded, formed the Cooper Corporation. 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 2000, Cooper had 60 manufacturing facilities in 13 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 into 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 2005, Cooper continued expansion in China by obtaining majority ownership of China’s third largest tire manufacturer—Chengshan Group—and formed the Cooper Chengshang (Shandong) Tire Company (CCT), with a facility in Rongcheng, China.
In October 2007, Cooper entered into a 50-50 joint venture with Mexican tire manufacturer Corporación de Occidente SA de CV, forming a new company, Cooper Tire & Rubber Company de Mexico SA de VC (Cooper Mexico), to market, sell and distribute the Cooper and Pneustone brands. In June 2008, Cooper announced plans to invest 38 percent in a tire manufacturing facility in Guadalajara, Mexico, and in a related move, increased its ownership level to 58 percent from 38 percent in December 2010. That same month, the company also increased its ownership of Cooper Mexico to approximately 100 percent from 50 percent.
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.
In 2013, Cooper announced its first U.S. passenger car original equipment (OE) contract, supplying Ford Motor Company with tires for the 2013 Ford Focus SE and Titanium models. Despite the unique and challenging circumstances related to a merger that was terminated at the end of the year, Cooper’s annual operating profits in 2013 were the second-best (excluding the divested automotive group) in the company’s history.
It was an especially important year for the company in 2014. Cooper marked its 100th year in the tire business with celebrations around the world to recognize the contributions of our people, the loyalty of our customers, and the importance of our communities. That same year, the company resolved the ownership of its CCT joint venture in China by selling its interest and establishing supply agreements.
In 2016, Cooper completed the purchase of a majority interest in china-based Qingdao Ge Rui Da Rubber Co. (GRT) for the production of truck and bus radial (TBR) tires. An executive leadership transition took place as well with Bradley E. Hughes assuming the role of President & Chief Executive Officer and becoming a Director of the company. His appointment followed the retirement of Roy V. Armes as Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President.
Today, in 2017, Cooper employs more than 10,400 people and operates in more than one dozen countries around the world and is moving its business forward. The company’s evolved business model positions it well to succeed long-term in the competitive global tire business.