Milwaukee investment group buys Fontarome out of receivership
April 22, 2014 03:00 PM
Milwaukee-based private investment group SFM Investments LLC has acquired the assets of St. Francis-based Fontarome Chemical Inc. and its wholly owned French subsidiary FCI SAS out of chapter 128 receivership.

Fontarome, which manufactures ingredients for flavors, fragrances and pharmaceuticals, entered receivership in January. It remained operational during the three months it was in receivership, and none of its 40 employees were laid off, a spokesperson said. It retained all of its customers.

Patrick McComis and Joe Froehlich lead SFM. Froehlich is managing director of Corporate Financial Advisors LLC in Milwaukee and McComis previously worked as vice president of contracts and compliance at Milwaukee prescription drug management firm Restat LLC.

“He just thought we’d be a perfect team to partner up together to acquire the assets,” McComis said.

McComis and Froehlich feel the fundamentals, staff, technical assets and intelligence are still strong, and the company simply needs an influx of capital.

“If you look at why the company ended up in receivership, it was really driven by one overriding principle, and that is that they were undercapitalized,” McComis said. “They just did not have the cash flow in order to meet their bills. Like anybody else … you start cutting back here and cutting back there, and it just becomes a downward spiral.”

The pharmaceutical industry provides opportunity to smaller developers like Fontarome, McComis said.

“I believe there’s been a paradigm shift in pharmaceuticals. The growth is really in the smaller, more boutique pharmaceutical manufacturers that need companies like ourselves to produce their pharmaceutical ingredients,” he said. “I just think that the demand for companies like ourselves will grow significantly in the future, so we’re uniquely positioned to meet their needs.”

The Fontarome name will be eliminated, and the company will go under the SFM title until a new name is established. McComis will become the president and Froehlich will sit on the board.

SFM will add 10 to 20 new employees in the next nine months, McComis said.

"Our new ownership team sees great value in the company and its future," McComis said. "We will change the operating name and invest capital in innovation, technology and people to grow the business in the U.S. and globally. Our Milwaukee location gives us a strong advantage for U.S. manufacturing (and) we have 30 years of impressive history in the pharmaceutical and flavor and fragrance industries to leverage and a talented team of employees."

All of the manufacturer’s employees will be retained and new employees will be added. McComis and Froelich will also develop a more integrated business plan with FCI SAS.

"We have a strong balance sheet today and a base of loyal customers," said Froehlich,who will serve on the new company's board. "We'll continue to provide the same products and the same services customers rely on while we improve our operations and increase our industry footprint."

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Mone will be interim chancellor at UWM
April 22, 2014 02:00 PM
Mark Mone will serve as the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee interim chancellor following the departure of chancellor Michael Lovell next month.

Lovell announced on March 26 that he had been named the first lay president of Marquette University in Milwaukee. His last day as UWM chancellor will be May 31.

Mone is a professor of management within the UWM Lubar School of Business and for the past two years has served as the chancellor's designee for strategic planning and campus climate. The latter is a cabinet-level appointment in which Mone works with the university's senior leadership and governance groups, and all university stakeholders to develop UWM's 2020 strategic plan, and develop and implement university-wide programs to improve organizational climate (collectively known as Best Place to Work).

Mone has been a member of the UWM faculty since 1989, serving for more than 15 years as the Lubar School of Business associate dean for executive education and business engagement. His responsibilities involved external relations for the Lubar school, including partnerships with business, medical, legal, government, and not-for profit organizations. Mone was responsible for the Executive MBA program, the longest running program of its kind in Wisconsin, career services, and other financial and marketing functions.

"Mark's academic credentials, leadership experiences, industry background, and long-term tenure with UW-Milwaukee make him an excellent choice for interim chancellor," said UW System president Ray Cross. "Mark has been actively involved in developing UWM's 2020 strategic plan. The relationships he has built in this effort, together with his extensive knowledge of the university and wider community, will keep UWM's significant research and academic initiatives moving on an upward trajectory."

Cross will work with the Board of Regents and the UWM community to begin a national search for the university's next chancellor, aiming to have a permanent appointment made by Jan. 1, 2015. That process will begin when Cross appoints a search-and-screen committee comprised of UWM faculty, academic staff, classified staff, students and community representatives. That committee will lead the search and recommend a slate of finalists for consideration by Cross and a special committee of Regents.

"I greatly appreciate this opportunity to continue to advance current UWM initiatives," Mone said. "Under the heading of 'Moving Forward Together,' I intend to work with all constituencies to complete our strategic plan and begin its implementation, continue work on strengthening student enrollment and educational quality, further engage our university partners through research, education and service, and identify and obtain additional resources for our campus."

Mone holds a Ph.D. in management (organizational behavior and organization theory) from Washington State University, a master of business administration degree from Idaho State University and a bachelor's degree in organizational management from Central Washington University.

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A.O. Smith reports record revenue
April 22, 2014 12:15 PM
Milwaukee-based A.O. Smith Corp. today reported first quarter net earnings of $46.7 million, or 51 cents per share, up from $39 million, or 42 cents per share, in the first quarter of 2013.

Net sales were a record $552.2 million, up from $509.6 million a year ago.

The global water technology manufacturer attributed the increase to higher sales in China.

"Our business in China got off to a strong start this year, with sales growing 25 percent over the same period last year," said Ajita Rajendra, chairman and chief executive officer. "The team in China has excelled at innovating, manufacturing and marketing products with features and benefits that meet consumers' needs in that region."

A.O. Smith repurchased about 446,000 shares of common stock during the quarter for $21.3 million. About 707,000 shares remain of the existing discretionary authority at quarter's end. The board approved adding another 1.5 million shares to the repurchase authority after the end of the quarter.

"We remain committed to growing our business organically as well as with acquisitions, and our pipeline of potential investments is active," Rajendra said. "However, we will remain selective and only make acquisitions that we believe will add long-term value for shareholders. In addition, the 25 percent increase in our quarterly dividend rate in February and the incremental share repurchase authority demonstrate our commitment to return cash to shareholders."

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Harley earnings up on shipments, efficiencies
April 22, 2014 12:00 PM
Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson, Inc. today reported first quarter net income of $265.9 million, or $1.21 per share, up from $224.1 million, or 99 cents per share, in the first quarter of 2013.

Consolidated evenue was $1.73 billion, up 9.9 percent from $1.57 billion in the same period a year ago.

The global motorcycle manufacturer attributed the increase to higher shipments of motorcycles and improvements in operating efficiencies.

"Harley-Davidson delivered gains on many fronts in the first quarter, with shipments up 7.3 percent, strong margin improvement and solid growth in dealer new motorcycle sales," said Keith Wandell, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Harley-Davidson, Inc.

Dealers sold 57,415 new motorcycles across the world in the quarter, up from 54,254 in the year ago quarter.

"Our dealers had a solid quarter of retail motorcycle sales,” Wandell said. “Sales in the Asia Pacific region were up strongly, and we are encouraged by the continued growth of new Harley-Davidson motorcycle sales in Europe. We're also excited to be entering the heart of the retail selling season in the U.S., having achieved first-quarter retail growth of 3 percent in the midst of a long, cold winter.”

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MGIC recovers from year ago loss
April 22, 2014 12:00 PM
Milwaukee-based private mortgage insurer MGIC Investment Corp. today reported first quarter net income of $59.9 million, or 15 cents per share, up significantly from a first quarter net loss of $72.9 million, or 31 cents per share, in 2013.

Total revenues were $235 million for the quarter, down from $269.1 million in the same period a year ago.

"I am pleased with the credit performance during the quarter and am encouraged by the level of the new business being written given the significant decline in refinance transactions compared to last year and the slow start in home sales given this winter's harsh conditions," said Curt Culver, chief executive officer and chairman. "I feel the company is in an excellent position to take advantage of the housing recovery."

The loan delinquency percentage was reduced to 7.92 percent, from 10.91 percent in the first quarter of 2013. Net premiums written were $218 million, down from $248.5 million a year ago. Realized net losses were $231,000.

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Wisconsin Lutheran launches second phase of $6.7 million project
April 22, 2014 12:00 PM
Wisconsin Lutheran High School will break ground on a dramatic expansion on Friday as part of a $6.7 million project aimed at enhancing the school's amenities and better blending its arts programming with other curriculum.

Phase one of the project, just about complete, has renovated parts of the school's interior, including adding air conditioning to 18 classrooms and introducing sound technology to the school's band room.

Phase two is anchored by a new two-story, 29,400-square-foot wing that will provide a designated setting for WLHS's "STEAM" programming – defined by science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

While the Milwaukee-based high school has been offering courses across the arts, with classes in language arts, practical arts, textile arts, fine arts and industrial arts, it is now moving toward more integrated programming. In this way, the school plans to intersect its arts curriculum with its STEM programming so that students receive a well-rounded education, said Pastor Kenneth Fisher, president of WLHS.

"It's connecting left brain and right brain activities in a way that rounds out our students more fully," Fisher said.

For example, the school could integrate engineering classes with textiles arts classes through the use of its 3D printer and computer-aided design software, according to Matt Bilitz, director of mission advancement.

Until now, the school has not had adequate facilities for many of its STEAM offerings, Bilitz said. The current facility is 200,000 square feet.

In addition to outfitting the school with a new entrance, the wing will add music classrooms, a dedicated performance choral room, a student center, and classrooms for family and consumer sciences courses. The wing will also contain designated classroom space for Project Lead The Way, STEM-based programming that Wisconsin Lutheran High School rolled into its offerings close to four years ago.

"Serving our students better is worth investing in the future, and this is a way to serve our current students better and expand our program for the needs of the next-generation students," Fisher said.

Full-scale construction of phase two, led by Catalyst Construction, will begin at the start of June with completion expected in December. The high school hopes to begin using its new wing at the start of the next school year's second semester in January 2015.

Funding for the project has come from several contributors, including individual donors, major foundations, dozens of Lutheran churches that support WLHS's academics, and students and faculty.

WLHS administrators are hopeful that the new wing and STEAM curriculum will also help "attract a wider variety and more international students," Bilitz said.

While two dozen of the WLHS's 762 students are international students, the school is determined to grow that population to at least 70.

WLHS is located at 330 N. Glenview Ave. in Milwaukee.

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Russ Darrow creates Hispanic Market Division
April 22, 2014 12:00 PM
Menomonee Falls-based auto retailer Russ Darrow group has launched a Hispanic Market Division to cater to the needs of the growing Wisconsin Hispanic community.

Mario Gayoso Noguerol has been hired to serve as the Hispanic Market manager. He previously served as an account executive for Telemundo.

"Mario's high energy, outgoing personality, and understanding of the Hispanic market make him a great fit for our organization and what we're trying to accomplish," said Mike Darrow, president and chief operating officer of the Russ Darrow Group. "In addition to marketing, we will also actively engage with the Latino community in order to grow our workforce to meet the needs of our customers."

Gayoso Noguerol is a member of the Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County in Madison and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

"I'm excited to be part of the Russ Darrow Group's Hispanic initiative and very serious about servicing the Hispanic community in Wisconsin," Gayoso Noguerol said. "From new and used vehicle sales, financing or refinancing, service and body work, accessory sales, and more, the Russ Darrow Group is poised to become the Latino market's go-to automotive solution."

Russ Darrow has dealerships in Milwaukee, Appleton, Green Bay, Madison, Fond du Lac, Waukesha, Wawatosa, West Bend and Greenfield. The company has more than 600 employees, a nationwide fleet and leading business and an in-house financing company.

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LGBT Chamber names Business Award winners
April 22, 2014 12:00 PM
The Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce today announced the winners of its annual Business Awards, which recognize members who work to create a more diverse business community in the state.

MillerCoors has been named the Corporate Partner of the Year for its commitment to diversity in the workplace and efforts to positively grow the LGBT and allied business community across Wisconsin.

Colin Gorman of PNC Bank in Whitefish Bay was honored with the Business Leader of the Year award. The designation goes to a diligent and creative professional who has made an impact on the effort to grow the diversity of the business community in Wisconsin.

The LGBT Business of the Year was awarded to A2Z Design of Appleton. The Allied Business of the Year designation went to Sugar Doll of Stevens Point.

Companies and individuals were nominated by other members and the public, and a committee of chamber members chose the winners. The awards will be presented at the chamber’s Business Awards & Expo on Wednesday, May 7, at Hotel Metro in Milwaukee. The event is open to the public. For more information, visit

“The Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce is proud to honor these businesses and individuals who have worked hard to build a more diverse business community in every part of our state,” said Jason Rae, founder and executive director of the chamber. “These winners represent the creativity, the determination, and the diversity of the Wisconsin business community and they are committed to building a pro-fairness, pro-business community in Wisconsin.”

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Milwaukee Biz Blog: Lovell leaves strong legacy at UWM
April 22, 2014 12:00 PM
Chancellor Mike Lovell will leave behind a strong legacy at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee when he takes the helm at Marquette University.

At the same time, Lovell’s successor faces some significant challenges and head winds. An interim chancellor will be named today. Read more in today’s Milwaukee Biz Blog by BizTimes executive editor Steve Jagler.

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Morning Headlines: Steinhafels to acquire three American stores
April 22, 2014 12:00 PM
Three closed American TV & Appliance stores, located in Oak Creek, Madison and Grand Chute, will be sold to the Steinhafels furniture chain as part of two sales totaling $21 million approved Monday in Dane County Circuit Court.

Read more in today’s Morning Headlines.

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Money Weekly: Laning to lead Baker Tilly Investment Advisors
April 22, 2014 12:00 PM
Bruce Laning has been named president of Madison-based investment advisory firm Baker Tilly Investment Advisors LP. He will work out of the Milwaukee office.

Read more in today's Money Weekly.

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NBA will reserve right to buy Bucks back
April 21, 2014 06:00 PM
The NBA will reserve the right to buy back the Milwaukee Bucks from incoming owners Wesley Edens and Mark Lasry if a deal to a build a new arena in the city is not in place by November 2017. reported that sources said the sale agreement announced last week to transfer the Bucks from longtime owner Herb Kohl to Edens and Lasry for $550 million includes a provision that allows the league to buy back the team for $575 million if construction on a new building in Milwaukee is not underway by the deadline.
A source close to the negotiations, who asked not to be named for this report, told BizTimes today, “Nothing like this gets done without a carrot and a stick all around. I believe the league will try to honor Herb's desire -- most of the owners and the commissioners really like Herb and are concerned about the image of the game. So the league will likely have some future influence with the new owners -- possibly a covenant that allows the league to take over the franchise if the deal for a new arena falls through. So the new owners better work hard, or all they get is their money back. Also, the local and state government leaders need to feel the pressure to help get things done, but there are lots of options other than a regional sales tax. It doesn't make sense to just build a new arena and leave the rest of the downtown area, including the convention center, languishing. Maybe there's a way to empower the city and/or county to pull on their own bootstraps with a larger, more ambitious plan together with some sharing of incremental taxes of all kinds generated by the new development.”
One source said the league would likely only intervene and take ownership of the Bucks step if it did not see "significant progress" toward a new arena in Milwaukee.
New NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the league was prepared to insist that Milwaukee have a plan for a modern arena by 2017 to keep the franchise where it has been since its inception in 1971.
"Sen. Kohl put in place provisions to ensure that the team stays in Milwaukee," Silver said last week after the league's annual board of governors meetings.
The board has not yet signed off on the deal to sell the team.

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COSBE accepts nominations for Future 50 Awards
April 21, 2014 10:00 AM
The Council of Small Business Executives is accepting nominations for its Future 50 Awards, which salute the fastest-growing companies in southeastern Wisconsin.

The COSBE program is celebrating its 27th year.

The winners will meet the following criteria:
  • In business for at least three years.
  • Headquartered in Kenosha, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Walworth, Washington or Waukesha counties.
  • Independent, privately owned (not a franchise, subsidiary or division).
  • Fast growth of sales and employment (averaged over the last three years).
The Future 50 companies will be featured in BizTimes Milwaukee magazine and will be saluted in a luncheon on Thursday, Sept. 11.  

All financial information submitted for nominations will be kept confidential. To nominate a company, visit  Self-nominations are encouraged. The nomination deadline is Friday, May 2.

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Claims Board to consider Talgo case
April 21, 2014 11:00 AM
The State of Wisconsin Claims Board will consider a $65.9 million claim filed by Talgo Inc. at its Wednesday, April 30 meeting.

Train manufacturer Talgo filed the claim in November, and the issue is on the closed session agenda for the next Claims Board meeting.

In the claim, Talgo accuses the Walker administration of failing to live up to a deal to purchase two sets of the company's trains.

Among other things, the company accused the state of inventing a dispute over testing the trains it built to get out of the contract and damaging its reputation through "the State's personnel continually defaming Talgo's professional reputation in every conceivable forum."

Walker campaigned in 2010 against the proposed high-speed rail line between Madison and Milwaukee that was to include cars built by the Spanish company. The line was nixed before Walker took office, but work continued on the cars, which were to be used on the Hiawatha line between Milwaukee and Chicago.

Talgo argued in the filing the DOT quietly shopped the trains to other states as it looked for ways to get out of the contract. The company also claims the state has to immediately repay $70 million in bonds designated for the train sets because it failed to take possession of them.

Meanwhile, The Detroit News has reported that Michigan transportation officials are interested in buying the disputed trains from Talgo until its order for high speed trains comes through in 2018.

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Interim UWM chancellor to be named Tuesday
April 21, 2014 11:00 AM
University of Wisconsin System president Ray Cross will name an interim chancellor for University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Tuesday afternoon.

The 2 p.m. announcement will take place in the Fireside Lounge at UWM's Student Union, 2200 E. Kenwood Blvd.

UWM chancellor Mike Lovell announced last month that he will leave the post to become the first lay president of Marquette University in Milwaukee. Lovell will not begin his job at Marquette until Aug. 1, although he has already been involved in several key decisions, including the hiring of Steve Wojciechowski as Marquette's new men's basketball coach.

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