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Japanese Buying An American Institution, The Thermos Bottle

June 16, 1989

CHICAGO (AP) _ The Thermos Co. built its business on keeping hot drinks hot, but some construction workers who sip their lunchtime coffee from Thermos bottles say the company’s sale to a Japanese firm leaves them cold.

″The Japanese are buying up America,″ said Derryl Caldwell, a hard hat working downtown. ″We like American-made products because it gives jobs to Americans and helps our economy.″

Electrician Gary Callahan said he’d stop buying Thermos products if new owner Nippon Sanso K.K. moves the company’s manufacturing plants out of the United States.

But Nippon Sanso has no such plans for Thermos, according to Bank of Tokyo Vice President Yasuo Kezuka, who helped arrange the $134 million purchase from Household International Inc. The deal was announced Thursday.

Kezuka said Nippon Sanso will retain all of Thermos’ operations, which include a propane-grill factory and corporate headquarters in Freeport, Ill., a factory in Batesville, Miss., two plants in the United Kingdom and one in Canada.

A Thermos plant in Taftville, Conn., is being closed and is not included in the sale, said Ron Slade, Thermos’ personnel director in Freeport. The company employs 1,900 people worldwide.

Kezuka relayed a statement from Nippon Sanso, which already has a line of steel vacuum bottles, saying the company ″will try to make good synergy by combining the Japanese technique and the famous Thermos brand. They will try to keep a leading position in the housewares products area.″

Nippon Sanso is a major manufacturer of industrial gas and is diversifying into consumer products, Household International said.

Thermos invented the glass vacuum bottle in 1907 and developed a large line of insulated containers for toting food and drink.

Although it is best known for its bottles and lunchboxes, including the cartoon-character lunchbuckets that are still popular with children, Thermos also makes gas grills, insulated coolers and other household and recreational products.

Household International, based in the Chicago suburb of Prospect Heights, said it expects to close the cash transaction by the end of August.

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