From the White Spirit Patent to a Leading Global Chemical Distributor
On Thursday 16th September 2010, Samuel Banner & Co Ltd celebrated its 150 years anniversary in the magnificent Liverpool Town Hall, joined by nearly 200 guests.
Guest speakers included:
- Councillor Hazel Williams, The Lord Mayor of Liverpool
- Graham Evans MP for Weaver Vale (Runcorn Cheshire)
- Mike Parker CBE, Chairman of Liverpool Vision (former CEO of British Nuclear Fuels Limited and former
- President and CEO of Dow Chemical Company)
- Dr. Tony Bastock OBE, Chairman of Chemicals North-West and Managing Director of Contract Chemicals Ltd.
- Mottie Kessler, Chairman and CEO of Banner Chemicals.
Other guests included:
suppliers, customers, service suppliers, past and present employees, Dr. Jenny Clucas, CEO of Chemicals North-West (CNW), Dr. Stan Higgins, CEO of North East Process Industry Cluster (NEPIC).
The representative of Total Specialty Fluids, Andrew Ward, and MD of TETRA Chemicals Europe, Lars-Olof Garpvall, presented special art work to mark the event. Mottie Kessler, Banner Chairman & CEO, thanked the guests, many of whom had made long journeys to be there, with some coming from as far as China, Germany, Sweden, The Netherlands, France and more.
The guests were greeted by an actor who perfectly resembled Mr. Samuel Banner. They enjoyed the food and the special cocktail created for the event “The Samuel Banner White Spirit Cocktail”, they then adjourned to the Council Chamber to hear the speakers who covered global as well as local trends in the Chemical Industry and in Liverpool.
Mottie Kessler closed the event by thanking Banner business partners for their continuous support. Mr. Kessler made a commitment to continue to grow a sustainable business which would last for at least for another 150 years.
A string quartet played classic as well as Beatles music. The surprise of the event was the Duo Singing Waiters who mesmerized the gathering with their vocal quality. Banner Chemicals would like to thank all the friends, suppliers, customers and supporters who helped to make the day so memorable. We also thank those who could not be with us but whose support has been invaluable in helping us to reach this remarkable milestone in our growth.
MP for Weaver Vale (Runcorn Cheshire)
Thank you very much for your kind introduction and for inviting me to share my thoughts here this evening.
I am very fortunate to represent Weaver Vale in Parliament, an area with a long and proud history which is closely intertwined with that of the chemical industry. In Northwich, there is an historical mosaic which has recently been restored, which is supposed to symbolise the key characteristics of the town.
It simply says ‘Salt’, ‘Waterways’ ‘Chemicals’.
Now, there is no doubt that as a country we are in the middle of extremely challenging times. The words ‘debt’, ‘deficit’ and ‘cuts’ have been used so much over the last year that they can sometimes lose meaning. It’s worthwhile reminding ourselves just how bad the situation is. We are currently spending more on repaying the interest on our national debt than we do on all schools in England. That’s just interest payments, not actually paying off a single penny of our debt. As any successful business like Banner Chemicals will know, we cannot go on like this.
However, I also firmly believe that there is a bright future ahead for our economy. The emergency budget, while taking many tough and difficult decisions, was also packed full of very welcome news, particularly for the north. The new one billion pound Regional Growth Fund, combined with the targeted relief on employer National Insurance Contributions, will help drive a growth in wealth creating industries, such as chemicals, which I believe the economy must be based on in the future. We must take this chance to re-balance our economy. After all, the last Government’s mistakes demonstrated that that you cannot base an economy on debt.
The rest of country could do far worse than follow the lead of chemical industry, which has flourished in Cheshire for over one hundred years, giving birth to some of the most successful companies in the world. The industry has also been behind numerous innovations which have completely changed the way we live, such as helping deliver cleaner water or more affordable and nutritious foods. Indeed, without such industries, there can be no rebalancing of the economy and no renaissance in manufacturing.
Politicians like me cannot achieve this. That can only be done by business. Our job as politicians is to send out the message that Britain is open for business again.
Dr. Tony Bastock OBE
Chairman of Chemicals North-West and Managing Director of Contract Chemicals Ltd
Lord Mayor, Ladies, Gentlemen, Honoured Guests …. I had thought of adding … and Banner’s competitors, but on such an occasion that would be churlish, so welcome to everyone.
I was really pleased to be asked to make a speech today … and somewhat surprised, since I spoke, at length, at Banner’s 145th anniversary. Don’t worry, five years later, I am less able to stand and speak for a long time … unlike Banner who are clearly healthier and stronger.
The formation of the company took place in a remarkable time for the development of the Chemical Industry and old Sam must have been an outstanding Chemical entrepreneur. The Crimean War had just finished with the filth and infections of that conflict promoting the development of the soap and disinfectant industry, particularly on Merseyside. The second phase of the Industrial Revolution had just begun, leading huge improvements in the performance of steam ships and railways and the need for greases and solvents to oil the wheels of those industries. In 1860 Abraham Lincoln was elected US President leading to the American Civil War and the development of Iron Clad battleships, one of which the Florida, was built on Merseyside. Those ships still had wooden hulls, sheathed in copper, because the anti-foulants paints for ferrous metals, which would later contain Banner products, had yet to be developed. And just a year earlier, in 1859, Charles Darwin published “On the Origin of the Species” which proposed the theory of Natural Selection and Survival of the Fittest, a theory which has been clearly proven by Samuel Banner.
For a company formed in 1860 to still be here in 2010 is exceptional and it must have been an exciting journey. I do have some experience, as we formed Contract, in the Northwest, 33 years ago, a mere upstart, compared to Banner and that journey has been exciting enough. But to achieve 150 years in a highly technical area, that has so radically changed, is remarkable and to expand rapidly and sustainably since Mottie Kessler took over six years ago is unique … and today Samuel Banner Group is unique, it was reported, in 2010 by Real Business, as the 25th fastest growing British private company … and none of the first 24 are chemical companies.
Successful, sustainable, growing companies reflect the enterprise, commitment and skill of their staff and management, the confidence and loyalty of their customers and the respect of their competitors … all of which you will see in today’s Samuel Banner. And I know after 15 years of doing business with Mottie, and with the support of Ieuan Thomas, it is those qualities that will sustain the company into the future.
When I spoke 5 years ago, I talked of the great scientific tradition of the Northwest, in relation to our Nobel Prize winners, with special mention of Sir William Bragg, who was born in Cumbria just 2 years after the formation of Banners and son William Laurence Bragg who won the Physics Prize in 1915. The citation for the prize was “for their services in the analysis of crystal structure by means of X-rays”.
Of course, the brainy one of the Banner team is actually Maggie Kessler who is an X-Ray Crystallographer, in the tradition of the Braggs and who works on the study of the structure of ribosomes, at the Weizmann Institute, for the team led by Professor Ada Yonath.
I made an almost flippant remark, 5 years ago, that maybe that team was also heading for a Nobel prize and in 2009 Ada Yonath won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry “for studies into the Structure and function of ribosomes” and I feel that the Northwest may have a little part of that to add to its success in science.
Today in the Chemicals Industry, we face challenging times; ferocious competition from the India and China, intense health, safety and environmental legislation, costly emissions regulations and a playing field, which even in Europe is far from flat. I do not oppose the need for legislation, except where it is “gold plated” or introduced in a clumsy, impractical way, which damages our international competitiveness unnecessarily.
However, with strong, innovative companies, like Samuel Banner, led with experience and skill and staffed with committed, talented people, I know those challenges will be faced and overcome.
May I wish the Company and its people an enjoyable day and another 150 years of success.
Councillor Hazel Williams
The Lord Mayor of Liverpool
Today I attended another celebration of a new business to Liverpool who have chosen Liverpool as their headquarters and main distribution centre. So what a wonderful balance to honour the 150th Anniversary of another company established in the City 150 years ago. Samuel Banner was a Liverpool chemist who worked on the replacement of turpentine, white spirit as we know it today.
I am reliably informed that many of you have been imbibing in a different type of white spirit this morning!
In 1990 the company passed into the realm of a public company, and, then was purchased by an American company. In 2004 Mottie Kessler with his business partner took over the company but retained the name Banner Chemicals, expansion into the NorthWest followed, with sister companies in Leeds and Middlesbrough.
Expanding and exporting from Liverpool followed to places like Latin America, China and the Middle East to name just a few.
Mottie and his business partner believed it would be a nice gesture to celebrate the Company 150th anniversary in Liverpool in this wonderful building Liverpool Town Hall.
Many thanks to Mottie and all those involved in the company for your continued commitment to Liverpool
Enjoy your day
Chairman and CEO of Banner Chemicals Group
On behalf of Banner owners, management and employees I would like to thank and welcome you all:
The Lord Mayor of Liverpool, MPs, customers, suppliers, past employees and friends.
I know some of you made a long and expensive journey to be here with us and this is much appreciated. We value your time and effort.
I believe the right terminology to use is: “business partners” as you are or were involved in our business and contribute to our success.
Today is a very special day! It is a day that arrives only once in 150 years! Unlike celebrating anniversaries of younger companies, for the time being, (until science finds a way for us to live much longer than 150 years…), the founder of a company which is 150 years old, is not able to attend such an anniversary. Today we pay tribute to company foundation laid by Samuel Banner, developed by his successors and built to what it is today by current owners and managers. It is a celebration for generations of industrialists linked together through the shared values of the company. I know the phrase “not many companies have survived for 150 years” was mentioned before, but as much as we repeat it, it still echoes with tremendous appreciation. What I can add is my conviction, that with business partners like we have, we are on track for at least another 150 years.
Personally, I feel very lucky, being able to combine my passion of chemistry (which luckily I share with my wife) and my passion to business (which luckily I also share with my wife) with the long reputation and history that Samuel Banner & Co. carries. It is a great pleasure and privilege to stand here today in front of you all. The beauty of the chemical business is in the cluster of relationship that evolves with suppliers and customers united in the knowledge that we all support manufacturing of real products that enhance health and quality of everyday life.
Liverpool is where in 1860 Samuel Banner and Co. was established by Samuel Banner, an entrepreneurial chemist, traveler and businessman. For this reason we chose Liverpool Town Hall as the place for our celebration. Samuel Banner invented and patentized White Spirit as an alternative to turpentine and the invention brought both fame and success to the company. The company then went through many challenges. From its Liverpool site being heavily damaged by Second World War bombs, to (65 years later), being forced out of its main solvents blending facility in London in order to make space for 2012 Olympics by the LDA. All these challenges, required continuous innovation for finding ways to provide services to suppliers and customers under all circumstances, while adapting and shaping the business model to match changing market conditions and needs. Achieving the company current leading position is thanks to generations of managers steering the company in the right direction and the dedication and professionalism of generations of employees. These were always paralleled by support of generations of suppliers and customers which is a key success factor to our business.
The company stayed with the Banner family until 1990, when the late Christopher Banner, the then MD, agreed to sell the company to the management who were supported by 3i private equity in their management buy-out. Shortly after, the company became public, taking over a public company and changing its name to Banner Chemicals PLC. In 1999, Petroferm Inc. of the USA made an offer to buy the company of the share holders and de-listed it from the stock market. Five years later, in September 2004, recognizing that manufacturing and production require different cultures, Petroferm Inc. agreed to sell Banner to 2M holding, a company formed by my business partner Ieuan Thomas and myself. Taking the business over, 2M decided to keep the Banner name of which we were and will continue to be proud of.
Over the years, Banner developed the Liverpool depot to focus on specialty chemicals and pigments’ dispersion while the London site became the main solvents’ blending facility. Later in 2006 the London site activities were relocated to a new site in Middleborough (thanks to Dr. Stan Higgins for helping in the move and making the introduction to NEPIC).
We made significant investments in equipment and in personnel recruitment and in training to make our Liverpool and London sites suitable for the modern health, safety and environmental requirements. Following 2M acquisition, an export business focused on oil field products was created, business lines such as BlueCat/Adblue that help in making a greener environment were added. Last year, thanks to our agreement with Ineos Chlor, we added Triklone and Perklone brands to our export business. We are proud for the opportunity to carry on brands created by ICI and improved by Ineos. While expanding in export, we did not neglect our traditional UK and Ireland business but refined it to current market needs. All these developments are based on the company innovative and entrepreneurial spirit that continues to be a key element of the company long term success.
As a chemicals’ distributor Banner adds value along the supply chain between manufactures and customers. We care for our stake holders, service suppliers and local municipalities and communities who all help to make it a success. I endorse our guests who are closer to policy makers to pass the message back to Westminster: The UK Chemical Industry is a major contributor to the UK GDP and Banner is proud to be part of it.
There are many things that fill me with pride but on the top of my list are:
- Proud of being able to continue Samuel Banner’s 150 years tradition of business innovation and entrepreneurial spirit
- I am proud of representing such important companies as our suppliers are
- I am proud of being able to service the UK customer and manufacturing base and to export products from the UK
- I am proud of having such dedicated and professional team of employees
- I am proud to be part of Liverpool heritage, Chemicals North West, CBA, UK Solvents Association and of NEPIC
- I am proud of having our stakeholders and guests sharing with us this important day.
We are proud of our heritage but we will not rest on our laurels. We will continue to:
- Add UK business lines and expand in product such as BlueCat that protects the environment by reducing diesel engine emission
- Expand our Export Businesses and ship abroad products made in the UK
- Invest in capital, equipment and personnel recruitment and training to match future needs
- Increase sales and profitability
- Overall, making sure we run a sustainable business for future generations
- I am sure that the late founder, Samuel Banner would have been proud of us and we want to continue the success story he started
Before I send you back to the food, drinks and entertainment, I want to thank the team of our sister company (Surfachem) for being such a wonderful addition to 2M family of companies. We value their support and in particular Utrick for continuing to develop the business and for always providing valued advise and to Nichole for growing the business further. We very much value the guidance and support they gave us in developing an export business. Surfachem is a fantastic company and while being younger, I am confident it is on truck to celebrate 150 years and more.
I want to thank my business partner Ieuan for helping me to form 2M and to acquire Banner; I want to thank my family for being so supportive and to my wife Maggie for her assistance and in particular for managing the growth of our Triklone and Perklone export business.
Last but not least, a very special thanks to Fiona who helped us to produce this event.
I would like to invite you now to go back upstairs where we will toast for our future success.