Whirlpool Corp. (WHR) is a leading home appliance company that sells products under a wide variety of brands such as Whirlpool, KitchenAid, Maytag, Amana, Jenn-Air, and Consul. The company’s roots go back to 1908, when Lou Upton won ownership of patents for a hand washing machine that he thought could be electrified. Three years later in 1911, Upton and his uncle Emory obtained funding to begin making a patented, electric motor-driven wringer washer. The new enterprise, Upton Machine Co., was born, and grew rapidly. Three decades later in 1949, the name was changed to Whirlpool Corp.
Whirlpool posted $1.2 billion in net earnings on revenue of $20 billion in 2019, and sold 67 million items. Its market cap is $8.4 billion. The company’s growth would not be possible without many subsidiary brands. Throughout its history, Whirlpool has made acquisitions to expand its product line from washing machines to all types of appliances. Whirlpool’s acquisitions have also allowed it to expand into a variety of new domestic and foreign markets, in some instances raising antitrust concerns.
Below, we take a closer look at several of the top acquisitions in Whirlpool’s history. Note that Whirlpool does not provide revenue and profit figures by subsidiary.
Seeger Refrigerator Co., and R.C.A. Stoves and Air Conditioners
- Type of Businesses: Refrigerators, Stoves, and Air Conditioners
- Acquisition Price: Not Available (3-company merger)
- Date of Purchase: July, 1955
One of Whirlpool’s earliest efforts to expand its product offerings and reach took place in 1955 involving a major merger of 3 companies. Whirlpool merged with the Seeger Refrigerator Co., enhancing Whirlpool’s product line to include refrigerators. As a part of the deal, Whirlpool also acquired the air conditioning and stove businesses of R.C.A. Corp. The combined companies had assets of $130 million at the time of the merger. The merger was a key early development for Whirlpool because it helped to position the company as a provider of a wide range of appliances beyond its traditional washer offerings.
- Type of Business: Washers and Dryers, Kitchen and Home Appliances
- Acquisition Price: $1.7 billion cash and stock
- Date of Purchase: March 31, 2006
In August 2005, Whirlpool agreed to pay $1.7 billion to acquire its rival, the Maytag Corp. The aggregate value of the deal, including about $900 million in Maytag debt, was $2.6 billion. Whirlpool reimbursed another bidder’s $40 million breakup fee due to Whirlpool’s pursuit of Maytag. Maytag, founded in 1893 in Iowa, had grown into a premier home appliance maker. Through the Maytag deal, Whirlpool became the immediate owner of successful brands such as Jenn-Air, the maker of microwave ovens, refrigerators, dishwashers, and small alliances. It also became the owner of several divisions of Amana, the popular maker of home appliances.
Whirlpool’s consolidation of control over the home appliance industry through the Maytag takeover was not without its critics. The acquisition was the subject of an antitrust investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, which ultimately found that the transaction did not pose a major threat to competition.
- Type of Business: Kitchen and Home Appliances
- Acquisition Price: Undisclosed
- Date of Purchase: January 12, 1985
In 1985, Whirlpool announced plans to enter into an agreement with Hobart Corp., a unit of Dart & Kraft, Inc., to acquire the appliance brand KitchenAid. Analysts estimated Whirlpool paid as much as $170 million for KitchenAid, though the price of the deal was undisclosed. Founded in 1919, KitchenAid manufactures and sells products such as ovens, refrigerators, microwaves, dishwashers, and food processors.
The acquisition was delayed for a year due to an antitrust lawsuit that proved to be unsuccessful. In 1986, Whirlpool finally acquired all operations of the company, except for the dishwasher and trash compactor operations, which it sold to Emerson Electric Co. as part of the acquisition agreement.
Hefei Rongshida Sanyo Electric Co., Ltd.
- Type of Business: Home Appliances (China)
- Acquisition Price: Reported $552 million for 51% stake
- Date of Purchase: October 24, 2014
Whirlpool became the majority interest holder with the purchase of a 51% stake in China’s Hefei Rongshida Sanyo Electric Company Ltd. in October 2014. Hefei Sanyo is a leading home appliance maker based on the mainland. At the time of the purchase, Whirlpool was struggling to grow sales in Asia. With the acquisition of Hefei Sanyo, Whirlpool expanded its reach beyond larger urban areas and into the previously-untapped rural Chinese market. Hefei Sanyo was renamed Whirlpool China Co. Ltd. as part of the deal.
Indesit Company S.p.A.
- Type of Business: Home Appliances (Europe)
- Acquisition Price: Reported $1 billion for 60.4% stake
- Date of Purchase: October 14, 2014
In 2014, for approximately $1 billion, Whirlpool acquired a 60.4% controlling stake in the Italian appliance maker Indesit Co. Indesit was founded in 1975 and is known for its washing machines, freezers, and ovens. The deal was completed in cash and debt and took place just a year after Whirlpool made a similar purchase of a majority stake in China’s Hefei Sanyo. The purchase expanded Whirlpool’s presence in Europe, where its presence was far smaller than in the U.S.