Chicago West Pullman LLC
WHO ARE WE
Chicago West Pullman LLC is a privately owned investment firm engaged in private equity, venture capital, merchant banking and portfolio management.
CWP’s private investments have been widely diversified and include Rail, Cellular, Steel, Air Handling, Technology and several Web-based businesses, generally in league with their managements.
CWP also accepts a limited number of fee-based investment banking engagements, usually where CWP can also co-invest in the resulting company, as a merchant banker.
A. Meinhardt Co-Managing Member
Roger W. Ach II Co-Managing Member/Founder
Chicago West Pullman traces its history to the 1880’s and the growth of Chicago industry. Cyrus McCormick, having founded International Harvester, wanted to grow his business by also controlling his suppliers. High grade Steel was vital to the production of the “reaper”, Harvester’s primary product.
As a part of that strategy, McCormick gained control of the predecessor of Wisconsin Steel, located in South Chicago. The Chicago, West Pullman and Southern Railroad was founded by McCormick, to transport steel between Wisconsin Steel and Harvester’s plants.
Any remaining steel production was sold to McCormick’s good friend, George Pullman, who ran the huge Pullman Works on Chicago’s South Side. A reliable and controllable Railroad was needed to economically provide timely deliveries, so the Chicago West Pullman and Southern Railroad was born and built to serve these two 19th century giants.
In 1983, CWP was formed and bought the Chicago West Pullman & Southern from the bankrupt estate of Wisconsin Steel, which had been spun off by Harvester and left to flounder. CWP invested in members of railroad management, brought them in as shareholders and went on to acquire six short-line and medium sized railroads.
After operating these lines for several years, we eventually combined them with another operator and have maintained various investments in a variety of public and private operators of and suppliers to railroads, barges, trucking and logistics/supply chain management companies.
In 1985, CWP purchased 3 steel mills from U.S. Steel, including the Cuyahoga Works, the Joliet Works and the TOW Missile Guidance Wire plant. Cuyahoga had been shut down for 3 years due to a long-running labor dispute with USS.
CWP invested its capital and arranged the necessary debt and working capital to complete the transaction, which was then re-named American Steel & Wire. CWP recruited senior management, made them shareholders, re-started production at Cuyahoga and set up an employee shareholder Trust for 100% of the salaried and hourly workers at all 3 plants.
In 1987, CWP arranged an initial public offering for AS&W to pay down debt and to monetize the holdings of all shareholders, workers included. AS&W was eventually sold to Birmingham Steel for cash.
From 1987 through 1997, CWP invested in a variety of operating businesses. Those included taking publicly-traded Vortec Corporation private, retaining management as shareholders, growing the business and selling it to Illinois Toolworks in 1995.
CWP’s investment in the public auction of cellular licenses and build-outs was another major project during that period. Over time all these licenses were sold for cash or merged with major telecom companies, helping to form the seamless cellular network we have today.
In 1991, CWP suffered its one significant loss from its investment and growth of Enterprise Airlines, an early predecessor of the feeder lines such as Comair and Continental Express. After investing nearly $10 million in cash and aircraft leases in 1989 and 1990, Iraq annexed Kuwait, causing oil (and jet fuel) to spike and air traffic to decline. Enterprise paid its creditors, canceled its leases, paid all employees and closed its doors.
In 1997, CWP began to invest in and develop Web-based properties. The first of those was Lottery.com which was developed into an entertainment site and began to seek licenses to sell state lottery tickets over the Web. While Congress has clarified that it is legal to sell state lottery tickets, horse race bets and fantasy sports, the only jurisdictions which have begun to sell lottery tickets are in the EU and Australia. While retaining all lottery ticket sales software, the Lottery.com URL was sold to a European buyer in 2005.
In addition to Lottery.com, CWP companies have also purchased, developed and sold casual games site Games.com and greeting card site Cards.com. In addition, CWP companies are currently developing OurTown.com and Grapevine.com.
Chicago West Pullman continues to actively search for and to examine opportunities in a variety of other web-based businesses, financing and leasing businesses, alternative energy services and logistics.