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Banks Sell Kaiser Group to 2 Bidders : Old-Line Engineering Firm to Be Divided Up

June 17, 1988|VICTOR F. ZONANA | Times Staff Writer

OAKLAND — Kaiser Engineers Group, one of the biggest and oldest engineering firms in the West, will be split into two as a result of a change in ownership announced Thursday.

American Capital & Research Corp., a privately held Fairfax, Va., holding company, said it purchased control of Kaiser for an undisclosed sum from a consortium of banks led by Bank of America.

As part of the deal, Kaiser's Australian and Asian operations were spun off to an affiliate of Elders Group IXL Ltd., an Australian conglomerate whose best known product is Fosters lager.

The bank group assumed control in 1986 after Kaiser's previous owner, Houston-based Raymond International, ran into financial difficulties. Kaiser has been on the block since March, an American Capital spokeswoman said.

Oakland Remains Headquarters

Kaiser, founded in 1914 by industrialist Henry J. Kaiser, has about 2,500 employees and had 1987 revenue of $550 million. The transaction will add about 2,000 employees and $300 million in annual revenue to American Capital; the rest will go to Elders.

The American Capital spokeswoman said the firm's headquarters would remain in Oakland. She said Kaiser would work closely with American Capital's ICF Inc. unit, a professional and technical services concern that specializes in environmental and energy projects.

"We had been planning to hire between 400 and 800 new engineers as a result of new contract awards and a growing backlog of work," she said. "In Kaiser, we are acquiring a unified group of engineers."

No Decisions on Staff

Kaiser Engineers, once a cornerstone of the Kaiser family empire, had a hand in some of the West's most awesome construction projects, including the Hoover and Grand Coulee dams and the eight-mile-long San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The firm also churned out the famous Liberty ships that helped the United States win World War II.

Kaiser's current projects include the cleanup of Boston's harbor, highway and transit projects and nuclear construction and services contracts at the federal Hanford site in Washington state.

The American Capital spokeswoman said "nothing has been decided" when asked about possible office consolidations or staff cutbacks. ICF and Kaiser have overlapping offices in several cities.

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