The Unsinkable Victoria Lowe

- Republished with permission from L.A. Focus

Robert L. Coleman

Professional Profile

 

Mr. Coleman has over forty (40) years of business and engineering experience. His business experience includes employment with Booz, Allen & Hamilton ("BA&H"), one of the world’s largest and most prestigious consulting firms. He has also acquired and managed a number of small and mid cap entrepreneurial ventures. Mr. Coleman is currently focused on acquiring portfolio companies and intellectual properties and providing consulting services to both portfolio and non-portfolio companies. His specific focus has been in the Consumer Package Goods (“CPG”) space.

As a BA&H and private consultant, he worked on a variety of strategic planning and cost efficiencies engagements as well as difficult turn-around engagements.  His entrepreneurial and consulting efforts have included successful restructuring of companies that required restructuring of equity, senior and unsecured debt as well as operational and organizational restructuring.   He also has extensive experience in vendor negotiations.  Mr. Coleman is highly skilled at finding “middle ground” between the creditors (especially secured creditors) and the company principals outside of and, if necessary, inside of bankruptcy.  He is a proven manager of people and is able to get results quickly under the most difficult circumstances. Mr. Coleman has been successful in securing hundreds of millions of dollars in commitments and funding for numerous acquisitions, expansions and restructurings over the last thirty years.   His clients have included Johnson Wax, Monsanto and Xtek Tool & Die and a number of smaller companies.

 

From 1978 through 1984, Mr. Coleman operated in various executive capacities at Prepac, Inc., a $12.0 million manufacturer of plastics and cloth packaging items for the consumer products retail and toy industries -- including products for Mattel and Lesney Products (Match Box Cars).  In 1982, at the request of the creditors, he assumed the Presidency of Prepac, Inc., then in Chapter 11.  Prior to being appointed to the Presidency, Mr. Coleman operated in the capacity of Vice President of Manufacturing for over four (4) years and managed directly and indirectly over 500 employees.  During his tenure Mr. Coleman improved the operations of the company from a loss in excess of $2.0 million to break even during the first two years of his tenure.  Mr. Coleman significantly reduced inventory cost by eliminating non-performing inventory and implementing an MRP (Materials Requirement Planning System) which improved inventory turns from less than 2 to over 8 times per year and eliminating the need for and reducing over 200,000 square feet of warehousing.

 

In 1985, Mr. Coleman accepted the position of Executive Director of the Minority Business Development Center ("MBDC") for Manhattan for the United States Department of Commerce where, through him and his staff, he provided operational and financial consulting services to over 100 growing and distressed businesses and raised millions of dollars in capital for those businesses. In 1987, he acquired the Seven-Up Bottling Company of St. Louis, a $21.0 million acquisition. Mr. Coleman held the offices of President, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. During his tenure he improved the company’s performance from only $273,000 of EBIT when he acquired it to over $4.5 million of EBIT (almost $8.0 million of EBITDA) at the sale of his interest. He sold his interest in 1992. Until December of 1996, Mr. Coleman acted as a private investment banker and worked on a number of financing and consulting engagements ranging from a hotel acquisition to restructuring of both manufacturing and service companies over a variety of industries.

 

In 1995, Mr. Coleman was engaged by Mr. David Steward, owner of WorldWide Technology, to assist him in avoiding bankruptcy. Mr. Coleman assisted the senior management team in developing a business plan/funding request which resulted in the company securing a credit facility of $27 million. Through daily and more frequent prayer God gave the management team and Mr. Coleman the wisdom to navigate through those very stormy waters. Today, Worldwide Technology has grown from a fledgling business that had revenues under $10 million to the largest Black-owned business within the United States with annual revenues of approximately $6.0 billion.

 

In December of 1996, Mr. Coleman led a small team that raised the capital and successfully acquired Wittnauer International, Inc (the oldest watch company founded in the United States) for $28 million.  He successfully turned a first year loss of over $5.0 million to a second year profit of over $2.5 million by eliminating over $6.0 million of cost during the first year of ownership.  He reduced the inventory SKU's by one-third and repositioned the product line to raise the gross margin percentage from 45% to 56% in less than two years. He operated in the capacity of Chairman and CEO through August of 2001 when he successfully orchestrated an asset sale of the company to a competitor.

 

In 2000, Mr. Coleman led an effort to acquire Paper-mate Pen and Waterford Pen from The Gillette Company.  Mr. Coleman assembled a team including Donaldson Lufkin and Jenrette and participated unsuccessfully in the auction of the Paper-Mate bidding almost $600 million for the company which had annual revenues of $1.2 billion.

 

 In late 2001, Mr. Coleman and Composite were engaged by Alert Staffing (“Alert”), a $200 million revenue company as its Chief Restructuring Officer (“CRO”). In the hallways of the Superior Court of Northern California just prior to a court hearing where Adecco Staffing (“Adecco”) was petitioning for Alert to be placed into receivership we met with the General Counsel and local counsel of Adecco.  Adecco was Alert’s largest creditor and partner, and had annual US revenues in excess of $3.0 billion and worldwide revenues of$18 billion. Mr. Coleman and his partner Mr. Davis were led by the Holy Spirit to ask the counsels for all parties to participate in prayer – petitioning God to provide the representatives for each company with the wisdom, mercy, grace and forgiveness to resolve the differences and difficulties that existed between them.  As a result God blessed Alert and Adecco with a delay in the receiver petition and granted Composite the time and wisdom to assist Alert in developing and implementing operational strategies to improve cost and increase cash flow. In 2002, Mr. Coleman and Composite were appointed Receiver by the Court and approved by both Alert and Adecco while we continued to be engaged by Alert as its CRO.   While normally this dual role represents a “conflict of interest,” these were not normal times and God was in charge. As Receiver we were successful in collecting over $16 million in delinquent and difficult to collect accounts receivable.  Mr .Coleman and Composite were also successful in securing a $12.5 million equity commitment for that company in spite of it having a significant negative net worth.

 

During 2003, Mr. Coleman and Composite were engaged by the largest grading company in Nebraska to assist it in dealing with its creditors and avoiding an impending forced Chapter 11 filing. The company had debt obligations in excess of $18 million. Again, through prayer with the management of the company and separately through prayerful negotiations with the company’s major creditors, God graced us with a forestallment of forced bankruptcy proceedings. We developed a survival strategy, Disclosure Statement and a Restructuring Plan for the company and assisted it in filing and navigating a voluntary Chapter 11 filing.  Composite worked with the company for over six (6) months as a court approved advisor to it.  From then until June 2007, Mr. Coleman continued to be engaged by numerous companies and entrepreneurs seeking capital and/or management assistance.

 

In June 2007, Mr. Coleman joined The Chi Rho Group LLC ("Chi Rho"), a boutique private equity firm with pledge equity from the Steward family.  From June 2007 through November 2009 as a managing director and one of three partners, Mr. Coleman led the firm's acquisition of several venerable national brands (including Topol -- the stain removing toothpaste and Porcelana -- a blemish remover) with national distribution in mass, drug and grocery.  This effort included all negotiations with the seller, Schwarzkopf & Henkel, owners of The Dial Corporation, and securing of external equity and senior debt.  Mr. Coleman also led the development and staffing of a management company, Nicene Brands Management Company, LLC, to manage the acquisition.  Finally, Mr. Coleman led the negotiation of an agreement with The Emerson Group and Emerson Health Care to manage the sales and distribution of the brands.   While at Chi Rho, Mr. Coleman led an effort with equity partner, Yucaipa, to acquire Ascendia Company out of bankruptcy.  Ascendia had then previous year’s sales in excess of $180 million.  While Chi Rho was successful in winning the bid process, further due diligence let to a decision not to acquire the properties.

 

Since leaving Chi Rho Mr. Coleman has leaded several acquisitions and development and implementation of strategic and operation plans for middle market and small market companies.  Mr. Coleman led the successful acquisition of a pavement marking company, and the acquisition and development of a series of retail coffee shops and a coffee roasting operation.  Mr. Coleman also led the effort to acquire a large public company that that had over 300 retail stores nationwide.  Mr. Coleman has participated as a consultant with a variety of industrial and retail business.

 

Mr. Coleman is married to Carolyn and they have one adult son. He holds an MBA from Stanford University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics (with minors in mathematics and electrical engineering) from the University of Missouri-Rolla. He has also done advanced studies in MIS and Operations Research. He has been on several Boards of Directors and participates in a number of charity and community service organizations.  He was recently on the Board of Directors of Faithful Friends, a faith-based organization which successfully mentors "at risk" youth from kindergarten through high school.  Mr. Coleman and his family are avid students of the bible and try to apply God’s word to every aspect of their lives.

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