The challenge that Berg faced was to re-focus the strategy of the company. The Boral board brought Berg in to address this issue first and foremost. Even after the divestiture of Azon, Boral retained a number of businesses that weren't relevant to its core business. These included tyres, engineering and elevators and the challenge in Australia was to re-focus on building materials and energy areas. As a result the elevators division was divested to Otis in late 1995.

Since the late 1980s Boral had not been very successful overseas; Berg felt that this was largely due to the fact that the company didn't have strong market positions in most of its businesses outside Australia. He decided to divest some of the businesses where the company could not command a competitive advantage and to build stronger positions where possible. Berg said, 'A clear example was in the United States where Boral sold out of the quarry and asphalt business in California and acquired the Bickerstaff and Isenhour brick operations. This made Boral the market leader in bricks in the United States, with a specific focus in the south-east. It also built on the acquisitions made by Neal and developed further by Bruce Kean.'

     
  Bickerstaff Clay Products Company History

In 1832 the United States government signed a treaty with the Creek Indians whose headquarters were on the land now occupied by Bickerstaff's brick plant in Phenix City, Alabama. As part of the agreement the Indians were moved west, and land was granted to prominent citizens of the area. Anderson and Charles Abercrombie bought the land to start a cotton plantation, and build a small country-style brickworks at the southern end of the plantation.

In 1885 James Bickerstaff and his brother William bought the property from the Abercrombies, but soon became more interested in the brickworks, which took over from the plantation as their main venture. The Bickerstaff family were born, lived and worked on the property for two generations. During the Great Depression when work was scarce they lived off the land.

The original brick plant had wood-fuelled up-draught kilns, which the Bickerstaffs later converted to coal. The original kilns were eventually replaced by down-draught kilns, and in 1927 these were converted to natural gas.

In 1952 a subsidiary company was established and the Bickerstaffs developed a forklift truck attachment for handling bricks without pallets. These attachments were manufactured and sold throughout the world, and some are still used in Australia. Bickerstaff was family-owned and operated until Boral bought the business in 1995.

Isenhour Brick and Tile Company History

In 1896 the Isenhour Brick and Tile Company was established at its present location in East Spencer, North Carolina by George Isenhour. Its primary purpose was to produce bricks for the booming southern railway workshops and the fast growing town. of Spencer. Around the turn of the century George's four sons joined him in the business and in 1909 a second Isenhour plant was built at New London, North Carolina. In 1912 Isenhour was the first company in the United States to operate coal-fuelled round down-draught kilns. In 1937 John Isenhour Senior built the first continuous production tunnel kiln in the southern United States and in 1964 the company designed and built a single location brick plant, said to be the largest and most efficient in the country. This operation is now housed in eight acres of buildings which include the world's longest tunnel kiln. The plant produces 100 million bricks a year. After one hundred years of family operation, Isenhour Brick and Tile Company became part of Boral Limited in 1995.
     
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