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April 3, 1989

THE HISTORY THAT MEANS THAT 95-YEAR-OLD KALAMAZOO IS IN IT FOR THE LONG HAUL

By CBR Staff Writer

One of the quirkiest publicly-quoted UK companies in the business is motor trade systems specialist Kalamazoo Plc, which has suffered a setback in its reorganisation plans (CI No 1,146) but the Financial Times has come up with answers to some of the long-standing questions about the company – such as what exactly is the Kalamazoo Workers’ Alliance? The answer to this one is that Kalamazoo started life in 1894 as a Quaker company, and the Alliance is headed by four trustees, each elected by a different group of the workforce. It controls 51.5% of the shares, distributing the dividends – when there are any – to the workforce. As a result, it would be very difficult for a hostile takeover bid for the company to succeed. And how come a company in down-to-earth Birmingham is named after that unlikely-sounding town in Michigan made famous by the Glenn Miller Orchestra? Instead of finding out, lazy public relations people used to tell anyone who asked that the company simply wanted a memorable name, but the true answer is that early in its life, it won the licence to manufacture the Kalamazoo loose-leaf binder from a US firm in that town.

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