Located in Kohler, Wisconsin, the Kohler Company is known for their various plumbing products. Kohler also produces generators, engines, tile, cabinetry, and furniture.
HISTORY Founded by John Michael Kohler, an Austrian immigrant in 1873, started the business from a purchase of a steel and iron foundry. Many of Kohler’s early products were cemetery settees and crosses, castings for various furniture factories, and steel and cast iron farm implements. In 18883, John Michael applied enamel to an iron horse trough, which created the company’s very first bathtub. Since then, Kohler has been in the plumbing business ever since. In 1888, Kohler Water Works had developed the trademarked original Bubbler. The Bubbler became very fashionable, and many other companies manufactured comparable products under the general term, “drinking fountain.”
In 2005, Kohler acquired SDMO Industries, a producer of various power generators, SOREEL, an electrical engineering plant, and BES from the French Meunier Holding Group.
CORPORATE MANAGEMENT Currently, the president of the Kohler Company is Herbert V. Kohler, the grandson of former Wisconsin Governor and President of Kohler Company, Walter J. Kohler, Jr.
The Kohler Company, in 1998, planned to purchase back any and all outstanding stock that wasn’t owned by the family. All of the Kohler family members exchanged their common stocks for shares with limited rights, and couldn’t be sold. The amount of the shares out there was very minimal, since Kohler Company isn’t a publicly traded corporation. The Kohler Company offered as much as $55,000 for each outstanding share, but a few of the shareholders had challenged their valuations of the shares and sued.
The Internal Revenue Service had also challenged their valuation of the shares by prosecuting Frederick Kohler’s estate, who recently passed away while holding 970 shares. The Kohler Company ended up winning the lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service.
PRODUCTS Kohler’s kitchen and bath fixtures are available in United States home improvement and hardware stores. The Kohler Company continues to produce traditional cast iron tubs, one of the few U.S. producers to continue. Other than the residential items, Kohler also produces a commercialized line of fixtures for the bathroom. Kohler can also do artistic customized work, such as toilets and sinks that are hand painted.
The Kohler Company also manufactures a large array of small industrial strength engines. Normally, Kohler made gas powered engines; however, after acquiring Lombardini, Kohler then extended their corporation to offer 65HP and below diesel powered engines.
The engines manufactured by Kohler cover a range of items from off road vehicles to water pumps. Kohler was the first company to provide backup residential generators to their customers back in 1920.
As of late, Kohler has expanded into the areas of tile, cabinetry and furniture in the consumer marketplace, and generators and engines for the industrial market. Kohler Interiors is a division of the company, which is comprised of Ann Sacks Tile, Kallista, McGuire Furniture, and Baker furniture.
Kohler displays in the village of Kohler, several of its goods at the Kohler Design Center.