Chicago Tribune (Sunday)

Under new owner, Morton Salt lays off 40% at downtown HQ

- By Robert Channick rchannick@chicago

Morton Salt, the 173-year-old Chicago company recently purchased by a California investment firm, laid off 120 employees at its downtown headquarte­rs this week, slashing its office staff by 40%.

The downsizing decision follows Morton Salt’s $3.2 billion sale in April to Stone Canyon Industries, a global industrial holding company that has quickly establishe­d itself through acquisitio­ns as the largest salt producer in the world.

“We can confirm that Morton Salt made the difficult decision to reduce its corporate workforce by approximat­ely 120 employees in our Chicago offices,” Morton Salt said in a statement Friday. “This was not a decision we took lightly, but after a comprehens­ive evaluation of our company’s long-term financial outlook and our ability to become more competitiv­e in the salt industry, this reduction was necessary to help meet our business goals.”

Morton Salt’s headquarte­rs at 444 W. Lake Street has about 300 employees. The laid off employees, whose roles were primarily administra­tive, were notified over the past few days, the company said. Their last day with Morton Salt will be 60 days after notificati­on.

The impacted employees will receive severance or separation benefits, continued medical coverage and outplaceme­nt services to help them find new jobs, the company said.

Founded in 1848, Morton Salt has long been an iconic Chicago brand, whose slogan, “When it rains, it pours,” has been part of the advertisin­g lexicon for more than a century. In 2014, the equally venerable Morton Salt Girl was awarded a permanent place on the Advertisin­g Week Walk of Fame in New York City.

Morton Salt, which makes salt for culinary, water softening, road de-icing and other uses, has had several owners in the new millennium. Philadelph­ia-based Rohm and Haas bought Morton Internatio­nal in 1999 for $4.9 billion. Ten years later, the company was sold to K+S AG, a German mineral products company, for $1.675 billion, creating what was then the world’s largest salt producer.

In 2015, Morton Salt closed its longtime production facility by the Kennedy Expressway on North Elston Avenue. Morton Salt sold the property for $15 million in 2017.

In October, Stone Canyon Industries announced it had struck a deal to buy K+S Americas salt business, including Morton Salt, for $3.2 billion. But the proposed acquisitio­n came under scrutiny by the Justice Department over antitrust concerns that it would substantia­lly lessen competitio­n in the sale of several types of evaporated salt, including round-can table salt, pharmaceut­ical-grade salt and bulk evaporated salt.

Stone Canyon, which previously acquired Kansas-based salt producer Kissner for $2 billion in 2020, agreed to divest of its US Salt subsidiary, including a New York salt refinery, to win Justice Department approval in April for the Morton Salt acquisitio­n.

Morton Salt generated approximat­ely $1 billion in revenue in 2020, the Justice Department said.

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