Brief Company History
In 1883, a historical partnership began in Carthage, Missouri, far removed from any major metropolitan or urban areas. Inventor J.P. Leggett initiated the partnership after developing an innovative bedspring. The bedspring consisted of single cone spring wire coils, formed and interlaced in a unique manner, and then mounted on a wood slat base. The bedsprings could then be used as a resilient, durable base for the then-popular cotton, feather or horsehair mattresses. Lacking expertise in manufacturing and production, Leggett recruited his future brother-in-law, C.B. Platt, whose father owned and operated Platt Plow Works. Through their partnership, they perfected the equipment necessary to produce the components of their Leggett & Platt bedspring, which was patented in 1885.
The Carthage market for the new product was very limited. To expand the market to a wider region, C.B. Platt and George Leggett, brother of J. P. Leggett, loaded a horse-drawn wagon with bedsprings and travelled to surrounding communities. To conserve space, they would often load the springs and slats separately into the wagon and assemble them in a store or on an adjacent sidewalk. The partnership prospered, and the business was incorporated in 1901.
The company built its first factory and offices in Carthage in 1890. The workforce at that time consisted of the two partners and five employees. Soon after completion of the Carthage plant, a second factory was built in Louisville, Kentucky.
During the next 50 years, three more factories were built. Demand for the company’s improved bedspring was rising, and a second plant was built in Carthage in 1925. The new, much larger plant was located next to a railroad to allow for expanded shipments of products and supplies. In 1942, an additional factory was built in Winchester, Kentucky, which was subsequently consolidated with the Louisville plant. For some time, Texas had proven to be a main market outlet, and in 1947, a major factory was built in Ennis, Texas. By 1947, Leggett & Platt consisted of 4 plants and 500 employees.
Although available in various models and continuously improved upon, bedsprings were practically the only product Leggett & Platt offered until 1933. However, in that year the company began to manufacture springs for innerspring mattresses, which were relatively new products in the industry and growing in popularity. Thereafter, the company slowly began to diversify its products within the bedding industry by producing rollaway beds and folding metal cots, along with bed frames and bed rails.
In 1960, Harry M. Cornell Jr., J.P. Leggett’s grandson, was elected President and CEO of the company, taking over for his father (who was J.P. Leggett’s son-in-law). The company’s total sales in 1960 were approximately $7 million from three states – Kentucky, Texas and Missouri. Determining the course and future of the company became management’s primary objective. Following an extensive evaluation of the company and its potential, Harry Cornell Jr. and his management partners concluded that Leggett & Platt’s best opportunities for profitable growth lay in a strategy of specializing in manufacturing, marketing, and distributing a broad and growing line of components and related products, first nationally and eventually world wide. Key drivers of future sales and earnings would include aggressive internal growth initiatives, coupled with an active and ongoing acquisition program.
Even greater success followed, and Leggett & Platt became known as “the components people.” Leggett & Platt stock was first traded over-the-counter in 1967. Twelve years later, on June 25th, 1979, top management was present in New York City to witness the stock’s first day listed on the New York Stock Exchange. In 1985, Leggett & Platt was included in the Fortune 500 list of the largest U.S.-based manufacturing companies. In 1999, the company became part of the S&P 500 Index.
|Top Management celebrates the listing of Leggett & Platt stock, LEG, on the NYSE in 1979. (From left to right): Felix Wright, Harry Cornell Jr., Louis Allen, & Bob Jefferies|
Logical, measured steps toward diversification and expansion have led to Leggett’s excellent long-term performance. Approximately two-thirds of the company’s growth over time came from acquisitions of existing businesses. Many of them were “bolt on” extensions of Leggett businesses, and can be thought of as internal expansions made in lieu of building brand new facilities.
Today, Leggett Platt products can be found nearly everywhere. With 2016 annual revenues of $3.75 billion, the company is the leading U.S. producer of the following:
- Bedding components
- Automotive seat support and lumbar systems
- Components for home furniture and work furniture
- Carpet cushion
- Adjustable beds
- High-carbon drawn steel wire
- Bedding industry machinery
Results are reported in four business segments, shown below. The percentage of 2017’s projected total sales is also shown.
Operations include 120 production facilities in 19 countries. Employee-partners working in the various locations include 22,000 individuals – the people of Leggett & Platt are the company’s greatest asset.
A pervasive spirit of partnership is encouraged through company-wide stock ownership, and in recent years, management and employees have invested about $25-$30 million annually in Leggett & Platt stock through a variety of employee benefit plans. Approximately 10-12% of Leggett & Platt shares are held by officers, directors, employees, retirees, acquisition partners and their families.
Management is led by: Karl Glassman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Matt Flanigan, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Perry Davis, Executive Vice President and President, Residential Products and Industrial Products Segments, and Mitch Dolloff, Executive Vice President and President, Furniture Products and Specialized Products Segments.
Leggett & Platt is a component of the S&P 500 Index. The stock is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (symbol: LEG).
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