Local staff is too small to make list

Posted: December 24, 2012

Triumph Group Inc. of Berwyn has a market value of $3.2 billion and it generated $3.4 billion in revenue in its most recent fiscal year. Its global workforce numbers about 12,000, and it more than doubled in size in the last two years.

Why doesn't this aerospace company appear on the Philly 50 list?

I've heard that question - or similar ones involving locally based companies such as Airgas, American Water Works, and others - in the five weeks since the debut of the list of 50 public companies with large workforces in the Philadelphia area.

There is no intentional snub here. The lower limit to make the Philly 50 is local employment of about 1,100.

That's what stops Triumph Group, which emerged from a now-dispersed conglomerate, Alco Standard Corp., after a management-led buyout in 1993. Triumph has about 100 at its Triumph Controls business in North Wales. Fewer than 50 work at corporate headquarters in Berwyn, where the company's name doesn't even appear on the office building sign on Cassatt Road.

Jeffry Frisby, who has been Triumph's CEO all of six months, but who has been a key executive there since 1998, wants to raise the visibility of his company, whose biggest customer, Boeing Co., with more than 5,400 local employees, is on the Philly 50 list.

Triumph was built by acquisition and, until last week, it had 44 manufacturing companies, mostly in the United States. On Wednesday, it acquired a 45th, Embee Inc., a 400-employee commercial metal-finishing firm in Santa Ana, Calif. Though the company did not disclose the acquisition price, Triumph said Embee would add about $50 million in revenue to Triumph.

Announcement of the deal came two days after I met with Frisby, who'd told me the company remained interested in acquisitions despite its relative lack of activity since absorbing Vought Aircraft Industries Inc., a company twice its size, in June 2010.

"We're still active in the acquisition game," he said. "We don't want to pay too high a multiple for the companies that we want to acquire."

Frisby saw that discipline in action from the other side of the table when Triumph bought Frisby Aerospace, the company his father began in 1940 that grew to have operations on Long Island and in North Carolina.

In the most recent annual report, former CEO Richard C. Ill described Triumph as "a $3.4 billion small business." Frisby elaborated, describing the balance between centralizing functions after an acquisition and keeping hands off on how managers run their businesses.

"We don't want to douse that flame of entrepreneurship," he said. "Those are the guys who are going to be best able to react on an individual company level and at a special market level, so that we don't have to . . . be the oracle of Berwyn, because we can't be that."


Contact Mike Armstrong

at 215-854-2980, marmstrong@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @PhillyInc.

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