February 18, 2013 | last updated February 18, 2013 8:30 am

Legacy Of Nypro's Lankton Is One Of Hard Work, Generosity

PHOTO/COURTESY
Lankton

The recent announcement of the intended sale of Nypro Inc. may have cost Central Massachusetts the headquarters of another large manufacturing firm, for some, perhaps, reminiscent of the sale of Worcester's Norton Co. to Saint-Gobain more than 20 years ago. It's never good news to lose a headquarters company, and Nypro has been a gem of a corporate citizen. Amid a business world that — in a broader sense — has embraced philosophies of "bigger is better," and a society that has at least the perception of a growing divide between the rich and not so rich, the Nypro story is an amazing tale of hard work, vision, and in the end, the generosity of its long-time president and current chairman, Gordon Lankton.

Seven years after he joined the company, then known as Nylon Products Corp., in 1962, Lankton became its president and later assumed complete ownership. Fifteen years ago, he sold nearly all his stock to an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), which now owns 80 percent of the company's stock, along with employee-owners who — outside the ESOP — own the remaining 20 percent. All stand to gain when the company's acquisition by Jabil Circuit becomes complete within the next three to four months — as have many recent retirees. So, while Lankton did well for himself, he allowed those who helped him prosper become richer themselves by holding ownership stakes in Nypro, creating significant wealth for others, including "several dozen" millionaires based primarily in Central Massachusetts, according to company spokesman Al Cotton.

Meanwhile, Nypro prospered both during and after his tenure as president as the company's revenue grew from $600,000 in 1962, when he first walked in the door as general manager and half owner, to $197 million in 1995, $416 million by 2000, and to $1.2 billion today.

When the Worcester Business Journal honored him 12 years ago with its Business Leader of the Year award, one of Lankton's mentors, Robert Hoffer Sr., said Lankton's sale of his stock to employees "emphasizes the character of this gentleman that he built (the business) and literally turned it over to the (people) who helped him build it."

In that same article, Lankton expressed a dislike for the culture of public companies — some of them even his customers — that seemed to place a higher value on pleasing shareholders. "The minute they go public, they post the stock price at the front door, every day, and so many times what you're doing inside has nothing to do with the (stock) price (because) in the external world, somebody else is dictating the price," he told us. "I don't like any of that kind of stuff. I'm hoping to keep this place a people place, with the values of an entrepreneurial type of business."

While the sale of the company marks the end of an era, the Nypro culture of entrepreneurial innovation is alive and well, and new owners Jabil would do well to hone and honor that spirit as it seeks to grow Nypro's base of business within the larger organization. Lankton's legacy has also extended to the cultural arena with his founding of the world-class Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton in 2006, and more recently the Gallery of African Art, also located a block from Nypro's headquarters. In addition, he formed the Lankton Family Foundation in 1994 as a way of further spreading his wealth to worthy causes. He also served for 24 years on the board of trustees at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, which, years later bestowed an honorary degree on him.

Gordon Lankton has been a pillar in both his industry and his community. While Nypro begins to fade as a separate entity, his brand of business leadership is one that deserves recognition, appreciation and — we hope — emulation.

Read more

Jabil Completes Nypro Acquisition

Nypro Shareholders Approve Acquisition

Jabil-Nypro Deal Closing Delayed

What Led Nypro To Sell To Jabil?

Nypro Being Sold To Fla. Firm

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