MARYLAND HEIGHTS — Fred Weber Inc., the asphalt and construction material supplier whose St. Louis roots stretch back nearly a century, is selling much of its assets to an investment group led by veterans of industry giant Vulcan Materials.
New Frontier Materials, a company formed last year to acquire companies in the construction materials industry, has purchased Fred Weber’s asphalt and rock quarry assets, giving the new firm more than 20 asphalt and quarry sites around the region. Financial terms of the deal, which closed July 1, weren’t disclosed.
The sale of a significant portion of Fred Weber’s operations — approved unanimously by Fred Weber’s board of directors — marks a major shift in operations for a company that has supplied some of the region’s largest construction and road projects. Fred Weber affiliates were part of teams that led the rebuild of a 10-mile stretch of Highway 40 (Interstate 64) through the heart of the region, the Page Avenue (Highway 364) extension into St. Charles County and before that the construction of Interstate 44.
Sherrod B. (Mike) Clarke is CEO of New Frontier, which lists a New York office in business filings and is backed by a private group of family offices and institutional investors. Clarke is a 35-year veteran of the construction material industry, previously working for Vulcan Materials, a publicly traded construction material giant based in Birmingham, Alabama.
In an interview, Clarke said that this is New Frontier’s first acquisition and that the former Fred Weber assets will serve as a base from which to acquire similar businesses in other markets.
“It’s a platform to look at other companies in the U.S.,” Clarke said. “It’s the beginning, it’s our first foray, and we look to add to that.”
Clarke said the management and operations teams for Fred Weber’s quarry and asphalt operations will remain in place. He won’t be based in St. Louis full time but said he plans to be here frequently.
“We have a very, very talented local team that will be running it,” he said.
The headquarters will remain in Maryland Heights. The firm also will look for nearby opportunities, he said. “St. Louis has a very stable market with the opportunity to grow,” Clarke said.
Don James, retired chairman and CEO of Vulcan Materials, chairs New Frontier’s board.
“This transaction establishes a platform for growth, an important first step for New Frontier Materials,” James said in a statement.
Fred Weber Inc. will maintain some lines of business and about 175 local employees, while some 300 move under New Frontier.
“Fred Weber will continue providing concrete pipe to the Missouri and Illinois markets and construction aggregates to several markets in Texas,” Fred Weber CEO and Chairman Doug Weible said in a statement. “We will also expand our contract mining operations and continue making strategic acquisitions that make sense for our long-term growth. The sale of some assets to New Frontier makes strategic sense for all parties.”
Fred Weber, which traces its history in the region to the early 20th century, supplied projects with asphalt and what are known in the industry as construction aggregates —gravel, slag, sand and crushed stone — in addition to providing other construction services. It was also formerly in the waste management business, selling those operations in 2010. In 2014, Fred Weber’s construction arm merged with Millstone Bangert to form St. Charles-based Millstone Weber, which builds roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
Fred Weber Inc. was led by members of the Weber family until 1986, when employees purchased the company through an employee stock ownership plan.
The sale of the construction materials business comes as Congress looks to spend upwards of $1 trillion in an infrastructure bill. Meanwhile, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson just signed the state’s first gasoline tax increase in a quarter of a century, allowing a gradual increase in state funding for roads and bridges.
New Frontier was looking at the acquisition prior to prospects of a massive federal infrastructure deal, but Clarke said that and Missouri’s gas tax increase added benefits to the deal and are “real highlights in industry.”