Airgas Inc. founder Peter McCausland says that, for him, it's always been about the shareholders.
That was true five years ago, when the Airgas board put in place an unusually onerous poison pill to fight off a takeover attempt by Air Products & Chemicals Inc. of Allentown.
It's true now, he said Wednesday, the day after the board he leads as executive chairman agreed to sell Airgas to Paris-based Air Liquide S.A. for $10.3 billion, or $143 a share.
"It is gratifying," McCausland said. "We were right back then. Our board did the right thing, and this is the right thing now."
McCausland, who founded Airgas with the purchase of a Connecticut industrial-gases distributor in 1982, said the deal with Air Liquide came after a couple of years of discussion on commercial ventures.
"During those discussions, it became apparent that we would be good partners," said McCausland, whose age was listed as 65 in the latest proxy statement.
As Airgas' largest shareholder, he is looking at a payday worth more than $950 million.
In an interview Wednesday, McCausland, who grew up in Merion and chairs the Independence Seaport Museum board, had little to say about his future beyond the sale:
"My role right now is to make sure this turns out to be a great deal for Air Liquide, so I'm going to help with the integration. Airgas and Air Liquide together can create tremendous value. I'm going to do my part. Beyond that, I don't have plans."
With $20.4 billion in revenue last year, Air Liquide is a major global producer of oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen for industry and health care. Airgas, which gets most of its revenue from the distribution of gases in cylinders, had $5.3 billion in revenue in the year ended March 31.
Together, the firms are expected to have about $8 billion in U.S. sales.
On a conference call Wednesday, an Air Liquide executive said the French firm was attracted to Airgas' one million customers as a way to expand the reach of its production facilities.
"They touch these customers in just about every channel that can be used. They touch them with direct salesmen, they touch them with industry specialists, they touch them through telemarketing, they touch them through e-commerce, they touch them through stores, with over 1,000 such stores in the country," said Pierre Dufour, a senior executive vice president.
Airgas, which employs 17,000, including about 250 at its Radnor headquarters, will operate as a subsidiary of Air Liquide.
"The Radnor headquarters is going to stay there. I don't see any significant changes in the near future," McCausland said.