‘A mutual connection’

Hite sells longtime business

Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec R. Lee Hite, chairman of The Hite Company, looks at a map of the company’s locations. Hite is selling the longtime family-owned business to Mayer Electric Supply.

A longtime Altoona family-owned business soon will have a new owner.

The Hite Company has signed an asset purchase agreement with Birmingham, Ala-based Mayer Electric Supply, and the transition will be effective Tuesday.

“In order to grow and provide future opportunities to our almost 300 full-time associates, The Hite Company needed to seek out a strategic partner of scale, covering a larger geographic footprint having larger capital resources,” said R. Lee Hite, chairman. “I selected this company. I wanted a company with a similar culture and values. They are much bigger than we are and can help us grow to the next level.”

Hite said he is selling the business on his terms.

“I’ve been planning this for a year and wanted to do it on our terms. I’ve spent my life telling people we are not for sale, but if we had to sell, we would do it on our terms, select the right company who has the same values but is bigger,” Hite said.

Hite said it was a good time to sell the company founded by his parents, Robert and Evelyn, as the Penn Central Equipment Co. in 1949. The company has grown to 22 locations in three states with sales revenue of more than $143 million.

“I didn’t want to sell during a down market; we just had two of our best years. You want to sell at the right time. It is a strategic sale,” Hite said.

The Hite Company had contacted Mayer Electric Supply as a potential partner.

Ranked among the nation’s largest, and most rapidly expanding distributors of electrical supplies, Mayer has more than 57 locations and covers 22 states with one location in the Pittsburgh market.

Founded in 1930, Mayer employs more than 1,200 people and has annual sales of more than $817 million.

“They were looking to come into the Northeast. When I contacted them, there was a mutual connection, like it was made in heaven,” Hite said.

“Mayer Electric Supply shares a common culture with The Hite Company and is a perfect fit for The Hite Company to continue to grow and expand as the Northeast Division of Mayer Electric Supply,” said T. Scott Lawhead, president and CEO, who will become division vice president.

James W. “Wes” Smith, president of Mayer Electric Supply, was impressed with The Hite Company.

“I’ve known Mr. Hite as long as I have been in the industry (30 years). Their company and his family have similar values that we do. They do things the right way. What attracted us was how we do business the same way,” Smith said. “This was an opportunity to join two businesses that share the same set of values.”

Once the transition is finalized, The Hite Company will retain its name, brand and, most importantly, its knowledgeable and dedicated associates.

“No one will lose their job,” Hite said.

Hite, 73, who will mark 50 years with the business in April, will become a Mayer employee.

“I feel good about this. I will stay around to help mentor the Hite management team and spend time with customers and suppliers,” Hite said. “One of my key things as an owner was to have a vision and be able to look ahead as to the needs and resources of the company and what is needed.”

Hite said he decided to forgo the traditional way of selling a business — hiring an investor and putting it up for bid.

“If you are interested in selling, do it the right way: Find a partner like you and make it happen. You don’t need to go the traditional route. Find a partner with the same values and make it happen,” Hite said.