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Changing Hands: From OMC to Ransomes to Textron

Outboard Marine Company Leaves Lincoln

From May to September 1989, Cushman's management team worked with a group of investment bankers developing a prospectus, identifying potential buyers, and inviting those prospects to Lincoln. Four firms were invited to Lincoln to look over Cushman:

We ended up getting purchased by Ransomes in England even though Toro had bid the same amount of money. But there was something else in the contract that convinced OMC to go with Ransomes, and they never shared that with us. They had to know that we would have been much better off with Toro, a much better capitalized company. Ransomes just about bankrupted themselves in buying us. They were leveraged out to the hilt. --Gerald Ogren

 Stu Rafos
Announcement of the sale the company to Ransomes PLC. Stu Rafos is on the left. 1989
Exterior of the plant showing the Ransomes name on it, 1990s
 Ransomes board meeting
A Ransomes board meeting at the plant, 1990s
 day after
"The day after Ransomes purchased the company," 1989
 Aerial view
Aerial view of the plant, 1990s
 Zero Emission Vehicle
The Cushman ZEV (Zero Emission Vehicle), a part of the product line when the company was sold to Ransomes PLC, 1990s

Surviving the Ransomes Years

Cushman people remember the eight-plus years of Ransomes ownership as a period of struggle, marked by frustrations with a management style that seemed to ignore Cushman's successful track record. The value of Ransomes' property in England that was pledged as collateral dropped. Then a major recession hit the golf course industry. It added up to sharp retrenchment at Cushman.

When Ransomes bought Cushman from OMC, about 700 people worked at the Lincoln plant. Less than a decade later, when the company was again up for sale, employment was down to about 400. While some of the decline might have occurred even without the sale to Ransomes, Cushman workers associated the decline with the British owners' management practices.

Probably some of the toughest periods of my career was...being forced to let hundreds of people go. ...Frankly, Cushman languished through that whole period that Ransomes owned us. We never grew. --Gerald Ogren

You were told continuously every time they had a meeting that you just didn't do enough. You could have broke your back, but you didn't do enough. That was one of the things that irritated us to death about Ransomes. And Ransomes did not have the money to update vehicles, or design new ones. They just didn't have the money. They had no cash flow because they paid too much for us and they had to pay their debt. But they wanted us and they wanted us bad enough that they would give OMC that kind of money. It was just a sad mistake by Ransomes' part. They wanted to get their product into the U.S. and they were going to use our name. They did. --Sharon Burcham

Actually, he called us all together one day in a meeting and said, "If you don't do so and so, I'll be walking you to the door." Well, I figured, this guy is never going to walk me to the door. I'll walk myself. So that was the genesis of [my] leaving Cushman. --LaVon Hansen

Ransomes... ruined the company, as far as I'm concerned. They destroyed the sales department, they destroyed the merchandising department and they destroyed the products. They had their own ideas and their ideas were not good. --Bob Debus

The factory was bought and ruined by Ransomes....Ransomes bought it and succeeded in screwing up a lot of things that were working. --Stan Talley

Product line  
Product line, 1996
Product line  
Product line, 1998

Relief: Textron Takes Over

In 1997, yet another change in the company's fortune was in the works when Textron, a Providence, Rhode Island-based industrial giant, bought not only Cushman, but the entire worldwide assets of Ransomes. In a deal finalized on Jan. 30, 1998, Textron bought the British company for $230 million and agreed to assume $60 million in Ransomes' debt, part of which stemmed from Ransomes' purchase of Cushman from Outboard Marine less than a decade earlier. The sale brought Cushman into a global industrial company with aircraft, automotive, industrial, and finance divisions.

I think that they [Textron] were the smart ones in 1989 in that they paid no premium then [and] that basically, in inflation adjusted dollars, for the same price, they got the entire worldwide empire for a price that was about the same that Ransomes had paid to acquire Cushman.....My opinion as an outsider today is that for the people that work at Cushman today, the acquisition by Textron was a good thing. --Ron Anderson

While the Textron purchase ironically put Cushman under the same umbrella as its former competitors in the turf maintenance and utility vehicle business, to most people at the Cushman plant, it was a welcome change.

When OMC sold us to Ransomes, that was a disaster. Ransomes almost did us in. They tried their hardest, but they didn't succeed....Textron, I believe, is a very good company. They are a very large corporation, too. They own us, Jacobsen, Bell Helicopter, E-Z Go, and it goes on. They do have a lot of money, so they must know what they're doing. I think it's good for us. Anything has got to be up from where we were. Anything. Even the employees buying it, which we could not do. I think it is a good thing that Textron owns us now. --Sharon Burcham

We've seen all the changes of ownership and various stuff, but I guess we are in one of the areas where all that has changed, but you still have to have a process to make parts by. That virtually hasn't changed with ownership. We still have had to do the same type of thing. I've really enjoyed the years and all the people I've worked with. --Glenn Schuette

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