The Diversey Corporation was founded in 1923 by August Kochs and son, Herbert W. Kochs, as a specialty subsidiary of Victor Chemical Works, their Chicago-based industrial cleaner business that was founded two decades earlier, in 1902.
The Kochs wanted to give their new organization a name that “would not limit them, one that had no connotation, and did not mean a thing”. They discussed this while lunching at a restaurant on Diversey Avenue in Chicago. When the elder Kochs looked out at the street sign he had his name. Herbert remained chairman of Diversey, Inc. for 35 years.
In Dec. 1950, Diversey Corp. began operations as a separate entity after a public offering of 143,000 shares of its common stock by F. Eberstadt & Co., Inc.
In 1978, The Molson Companies Limited, perhaps best known for being North America’s oldest brewery, continued a strategic diversification that included chemical specialties acquisitions. The company offered Diversey Corp. $28 per share of stock, making it Molson’s first large U.S. acquisition. Herbert Kochs remained chairman until retirement in 1979.
Two years later, Molson acquired another American cleaning company, BASF Wyandotte Corporation, a manufacturer of chemical specialties products related to food services and commercial laundries. The subsequent merger of BASF and Diversey in Canada made the chemical products division of Molson its second largest earnings contributor. The merger quickly increased Diversey’s U.S. market share. The chemical specialties division then had the greatest worldwide presence of any company in the chemical industry; represented in 36 countries with 52 manufacturing plants. In order to sustain the advantage, Diversey emphasized the development of products and technologies with worldwide applications.
As Molson slowly exited the cleaning chemicals market, it sold most of Diversey in 1996 to the British-Dutch transnational consumer goods company Unilever. The 1996 acquisition of Northbrook, Illinois-based Diversey Corporation, from Molson was Unilever’s first foray into the industrial cleaning sector. DiverseyLever was created through its subsequent merging with Lever Industrial International. In June 2001, Proforma sales of DiverseyLever were estimated to be €1.654 billion. U.S. operations were based in Cincinatti, Ohio, a hub of Unilever activity.
Johnson Wax Professional
As Unilever shifted focus to its portfolio of consumer businesses, the DiverseyLever institutional and industrial cleaning business was sold in 2002 to Racine, Wis.-based Johnson Wax Professional (JWP) in the United States. Unilever retained a 33-percent equity interest in the newly-combined JohnsonDiversey business.
The acquisition created the second largest company in the institutional and industrial (I&I) market with approximately $2.6 billion in sales and combined two global cleaning and sanitation industries with very little market overlap—Johnson Wax Professional in floor care and housekeeping, and DiverseyLever in warewashing, laundry and food processing/sanitation.
In July 2009, Unilever reduced its equity interest in JohnsonDiversey to 4 percent. At the same time, JohnsonDiversey announced that Clayton, Dubillier & Rice, Inc. (CD&R) would take a 46 percent equity interest as part of a broader recapitalization initiative. The Diversey name was sold with all the brands used exclusively by the DiverseyLever operations. DiverseyLever continued to sell certain consumer brands retained by Unilever to professional and cash-and-carry channels.
JohnsonDiversey, Inc. and JohnsonDiversey Holdings, Inc. announced on March 1, 2010 that the Board of Directors of both entities would approve a change of their corporate names. At that time, JohnsonDiversey, Inc. changed its name to Diversey, Inc. and JohnsonDiversey Holdings, Inc. changed to Diversey Holdings.
Sealed Air, Corp.
On June 1, 2011, Sealed Air Corporation announced its intention to purchase Diversey, Inc. In 2013, Sealed Air announced new divisional strategies, creating the business entities of Food Care, Product Care and Diversey Care. Dr. Ilham Kadri became president of Diversey Care, Sealed Air’s hygiene and cleaning business unit. In October 2016, Sealed Air announced a plan to spin-off its Diversey Care division along with the food hygiene and cleaning business within its Food Care division.
Bain Capital Private Equity
In March 2017, Bain Capital Private Equity announced that it was purchasing the Diversey Care division of Sealed Air as well as the food hygiene solution business that was part of its Food Care division to be managed as a standalone company. The sale was completed September 6, 2017, once again establishing the company back to its founding name, Diversey, Inc. Dr. Kadri was named president and CEO of the new organization.