W.R. Grace: The End of an Corporate Empire

Activists Want Their Companies Smaller and Smaller; The Final Break-Up for a Conglomerate of Yore

Founded in 1854, W.R. Grace & Co. took more than a century to find its place in the business world.

Grace and its predecessor companies tried scores of businesses—grinding bones and oyster shells into fertilizer, operating steam ships, banking, breeding cattle, and running kidney-dialysis centers—before concentrating on chemicals over the past two decades.

Now the Columbia, Md.-based company has settled on a strategy with an even narrower focus. Last Thursday, it announced a spinoff plan that would split Grace into two firms—one making catalysts used in oil and chemical refining and the other producing chemicals used in cement and concrete.

The change put Grace in tune with investors’ current preference for purer plays. “The time is right to create two strong, independent companies,” Grace’s chief executive, Fred Festa, said Thursday, and the share price closed up about 12%.

Read more: The Wall Street Journal


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events