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New Textile Behemoth: Ross Forms $900M ITG, Poised to Take On China

Wilbur L. Ross’ second conglomerate was born Wednesday with the merger of Burlington Industries and Cone Mills into International Textile Group.

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ITG will be divided into four divisions: Burlington Apparel Fabrics, Cone Denim — which will incorporate Burlington’s Mexican denim mill — Burlington Home Furnishings and Nano-Tex.

Burlington veteran Ken Kunberger will head the apparel fabrics business. The company said it is searching for a president for the home furnishings unit.

Ross said his key strategies for the merged company include focusing on developing new fabric technologies that will appeal to consumers, boosting the identity of the company’s Burlington and Cone brands and developing a lower-cost model of operating.

The pattern Ross has taken in textiles is strikingly similar to the model he followed in creating the Richfield, Ohio-based International Steel Group out of three bankrupt steel companies. ISG held an initial public offering in December, raising $462 million.

Ross emphasized he was in no rush to flip ITG onto the markets.

“This is early days. We just now have organized the company, so our first order of business is to get it up and running, get the right people in place and give the management a chance to get things going and then later worry about an IPO,” he said. “At some appropriate time, it would be useful for ITG to be public, but we have no immediate plans to do so.”

While he is known for snapping up bankrupt companies and restructuring them, he said that is not his only strategy and that it would be far less likely that he’d buy bankrupt companies abroad.

Both Cone and Burlington already had presences in Asia. Cone has a denim joint venture in Turkey, while Burlington has a quarter interest in an Indian mill. Ross said Cone’s IsKone venture would be continuing, but that Burlington’s Indian joint venture partner had indicated that he intends to buy out Burlington’s stake in the firm.
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