Precision Marshall cuts a deal for knife-making firm

Rick Shrum
Observer Reporter

Tom Sedlak spent a lot of time in Milwaukee over the past month, and for good reason. A transaction was brewing.

The CEO of Precision Marshall was working to help cut a deal to acquire a Wisconsin knife-making company. For nearly two weeks, he thought a transaction was close to closing, but it didn’t happen, a frustrating circumstance that also was costing him beach time with his family.

Sedlak, however, got to hit the dunes after all, at least for a few days, before returning to the Midwest – and realizing corporate success.

Live Ventures Inc., the diversified holding company that owns the South Strabane Township-based steelmaker, on Tuesday completed a deal to acquire Kinetic Co. Inc., which manufactures industrial knives.

Las Vegas-based Live Ventures announced the transaction in a news release Wednesday. It listed the value of the deal at about $26 million.

Sedlak said the acquisition had been in the works for four months.

“We’ll still sell to our customers and they will sell to Kinetic,” he said of a business located in the Milwaukee suburb of Greendale. “By buying Kinetic, we’re helping our customers by providing a supply chain for them, which makes sense.”

Precision Marshall, which will celebrate its 74th birthday on Friday, makes specialty tool steel and steel alloys at its manufacturing facility along Berry Road. Its corporate headquarters also sit there, high on a hill that is highly visible to commuters on Interstates 70 and 79.

Kinetic, on its website, refers to itself as “The World’s Premier Knifemaker.” The company says, “We cut, shear, and/or slit materials for the tissue, metals, plastic, wood and recycling industries.” Live Ventures said Kinetic makes more than 90 types of knives.

This is a third-generation family business, launched in 1948 by C.L. Masters in his garage in northern Wisconsin. The company is now owned by his grandson, Cash Masters – an appropriate name for a top executive.

Precision Marshall’s roots are eerily similar to those of Kinetic. Thomas R. Milhollan likewise founded his company in 1948, in the garage of his May Avenue home in Washington.

Three-quarters of a century later, his firm has grown to the point that it has a national distribution center in Bolingbrook, Ill., a warehouse in Anaheim, Calif., and a facility it opened in the Meadow Lands in January. Oh, and it is big enough to participate in acquisitions.

Kinetic has about 100 employees, compared with about 85 at Precision Marshall, the majority of whom work in South Strabane. Sedlak’s company pledges to add to the employee rolls, as the large sign out front of headquarters, visible from the interstates, screams out.

“Precision Marshall continues to look for quality people,” he said. “We’re still aggressively hiring (

“We’re committed to well-paying jobs and continue to look at other acquisitions.”