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W. R. Grace and Company

W. R. Grace and Company
Public (NYSE: GRA)
HeadquartersColumbia, Maryland
Key peopleAlfred Festa, CEO & Pres
IndustryBasic Materials
ProductsSpecialty Chemicals

W. R. Grace and Company (NYSE: GRA) is a Columbia, Maryland, United States based chemical conglomerate.

The company has two main divisions, Davison Chemicals and Performance Chemicals. The Davison unit makes chemical catalysts, refining catalysts, and silica-based products that let other companies make products from refined crude oil. Its Performance Chemicals unit makes cement and concrete additives, fireproofing chemicals, and packaging sealants. The customers include chemicals companies, construction firms, and oil refiners.[1]

Their self-description is "a premier specialty chemicals and materials company." Grace has more than 6,400 employees in nearly 40 countries, and annual sales of more than $2.5 billion.[1] The company's stock, with ticker symbol "GRA," listed in 1953, trades on the New York Stock Exchange.[2]



W.R. Grace and Company was founded in 1854 in Peru by William Russell Grace (1832-1904), who left Ireland due to the Potato Famine. He went first to Peru to work as a ship's chandler to the merchantmen harvesting guano (fertilizer and gunpowder ingredient due to its high levels of phosphorus and nitrogen) and, moving the company to New York City in 1865 working in fertilizer and machinery, the company was formally chartered in 1872, and incorporated in 1899.[3] Joseph P. Grace Sr. became company president in 1907. During the Second World War, in 1945, J. Peter Grace Jr., W.R. Grace's grandson, took control of the company. The company began to diversify.

In 1954, the company bought Davison Chemical Company (founded by William T. Davison as Davison, Kettlewell & Company in 1832), and the Dewey & Almy Chemical Company (founded in 1919 by Bradley Dewey and Charles Almy).

At one time, Grace's main business interest was in the shipping business. To get its products from Peru to North America and Europe, including guano and sugar, and noticing the need for other goods to be traded, William Grace founded a shipping division.[3]

The company bought a 53% stake in Miller Brewing in 1966, for $36 million, Lorraine Mulberger sold the stake for religious reasons.[4] It sold the Miller stake in 1969 to Philip Morris for $130 million, topping a deal with PepsiCo for $120 million.[5][6][7]

In 1987, with a can sealing plant in Shanghai, Grace became the first wholly foreign-owned company to do business in The People's Republic of China.

Grace's corporate headquarters are located in Columbia, Maryland. Although W. R. Grace commissioned the Grace Building in New York City, built in 1971, the company no longer has any offices occupying it.

In 1998 W.R Grace was sued by the SEC.

Subsidiaries and products

Subsidiaries and some of their products include:

  • Grace Davison [8]
  • Grace Performance Chemicals [9]
    • Grace Construction Products [10]
    • Darex [12]
      • coatings, closures and sealants for soft drink cans and canned foods
    • Residential Building Materials [13]
      • roofing membranes and flashings for windows, doors, decks and roof detail areas

Contamination incidents

W. R. Grace and Company has been involved in a number of controversial incidents of proven and alleged corporate crimes, including exposing workers to asbestos contamination in Libby and Troy, Montana, water contamination (the basis of the book and film A Civil Action) in Woburn, Massachusetts, and an Acton, Massachusetts Superfund site.


In the 1970s, it was discovered that W. R. Grace had improperly disposed of trichloroethylene, an industrial solvent, which then entered the town's groundwater. The chemical appears to have caused fatal cases of leukemia and cancer, as well as a wide variety of other health problems, among the citizens of the town.


Despite the fact that Grace is troubled with asbestos lawsuits, it still sells $1.4 billion of products a year. 150,000 lawsuits have been settled or dismissed and 120,000 remain.[14] W. R. Grace and Company has faced more than 250,000 asbestos-related lawsuits. Grace no longer makes asbestos-related products.

After asbestos injury claims nearly doubled in 2000, W. R. Grace & Company filed for bankruptcy protection in 2001 due to the unexpected increase in asbestos litigation. The United States Department of Justice determined that Grace had transferred 4 to 5 billion dollars to spin-off companies it had recently purchased, shortly before declaring bankruptcy. Justice Department attornies found that this amounted to a "fraudulent transfer" of money in order to protect Grace from civil suits related to asbestos. The bankruptcy court ordered the companies to return nearly $1 billion to Grace, which will remain as part of the assets to consider in the bankruptcy hearings.

In 2005, the U.S. Department of Justice began criminal proceedings against W.R. Grace. The department announced that a grand jury in Montana indicted W.R. Grace and seven current and former Grace executives for knowingly endangering residents of Libby, Montana, and concealing information about the health affects of its asbestos mining operations. According to the indictment, W. R. Grace and its executives, as far back as the 1970s, attempted to conceal information about the adverse health effects of the company’s vermiculite mining operations and distribution of vermiculite in the Libby, Montana community. The defendants are also accused of obstructing the government’s cleanup efforts and wire fraud. To date, according to the indictment, approximately 1,200 residents of Libby area have been identified as suffering from some kind of asbestos-related abnormality.[15] The criminal proceedings are ongoing as of July 2007.[16]

Popular culture reaction

The movie A Civil Action, starring John Travolta, was based on these law suits.

The PBS television show P.O.V., which highlights independent films in August 2007 premiered the movie Libby, Montana that documents the thousands of people in Libby, Montana that have been exposed to and are suffering the effects of exposure to asbestos. The show also discusses the criminal indictments of many Grace executives for covering up the asbestos related illnesses and deaths.

NPR ran a piece on their show All Things Considered discussing the criminal charges against W. R. Grace. A U.S. attorney general alleges that the company and managers of the mine in Libby, Montana knew about the dangers of the asbestos they were dumping into the air for over 20 years.[17]

See also

  • Anderson v. Cryovac, C.A. No. 82-1672-S (D. Mass)(Anne Anderson et al. v. Cryovac Inc. W.R. Grace Inc., John J. Riley Company Inc., Beatrice Inc. et al. Superior Court Civil Action #82-2444, Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Filed May 14, 1982.)
Anderson v. Cryovac, Inc., 96 F.R.D. 431 (D. Mass. 1983)
Anderson v. W.R. Grace & Co., 628 F. Supp. 1219 (D. Mass. 1986)
Anderson v. Cryovac, Inc., 805 F.2d 1 (1st Cir. Mass. 1986)
Anderson v. Cryovac, Inc., 862 F.2d 910 (1st Cir. Mass. 1988), on remand, Anderson v. Beatrice Foods Co., 127 F.R.D. 1 (D. Mass. 1989)
Anderson v. Beatrice Foods Co., 129 F.R.D. 394 (D. Mass. 1989), aff'd, 900 F.2d 388 (1st Cir.), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 891 (1990)
  • Beatrice Foods
  • Riley v. Harr, No. 01-1648 United States Court of Appeals - First Circuit (John J. Riley, Jr. and Diana W. Riley (Plaintiffs, Appellants) v. Jonathan Harr; Random House, Inc., New York; Vintage Books; Random House Audio Publishing, Inc. (Defendants, Appellees)


  1. ^ a b Company Info @ Grace Investor Information
  2. ^ Stock Info @ Grace Investor Information
  3. ^ a b "A Matter of Chemistry" - Time Inc. - Friday, Mar. 23, 1962
  4. ^ "A Deal Between Grandchildren" - Time Inc. - Friday, Sep. 30, 1966
  5. ^ "The Philip Morris USA Story" @
  6. ^ "Miller Brewing Company: How New Leadership is Changing Corporate Culture" Case Study @ Ohio University
  7. ^ Miller Brewing Company @ FundingUniverse
  8. ^ Business Units @
  9. ^ Grace Performance Chemicals @
  10. ^ Grace Construction
  11. ^ Products @
  12. ^ Darex Website
  13. ^ Grace At
  14. ^ The history of W.R. Grace & Co. Seattle Post-Intelligence, Thursday, November 18, 1999 (last accessed on August 28, 2007)
  15. ^ United States Department of Justice W.R. Grace and Executives Charges with Fraud, Obstruction of Justice, and Endangering Libby, Montana Community, February 7, 2005 press release (last accessed August 28, 2007)
  16. ^ Carrie Johnson Asbestos Evidentiary Ruling Goes Against Grace, Washington Post, Friday, July 13, 2007; Page D05 (last accessed on August 28, 2007)
  17. ^ episode discussing the criminal liability of WR Grace and its executives
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "W._R._Grace_and_Company". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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