Sunbeam Products

Last updated
Sunbeam Products, Inc.
Company type Subsidiary
Industry Consumer products
Founded1897;127 years ago (1897)
as Chicago Flexible Shaft Company
Area served
Key people
Andrew C. Hill
(CEO & President) [1]
Products Kitchen appliances
Home and health products
Parent Newell Brands

Sunbeam Products is an American company founded in 1897 that has produced electric home appliances under the Sunbeam name since 1910. Its products have included the Mixmaster mixer, the Sunbeam CG waffle iron, Coffeemaster (1938–1964) [2] and the fully automatic T20 toaster.


The company has endured a long history of struggles, including in 2001, when it filed for bankruptcy and was also found to have committed massive accounting fraud, for which it was subject to SEC investigation. In 2002, Sunbeam emerged from bankruptcy as American Household, Inc. (AHI). Sunbeam was owned by Jarden Consumer Solutions after Jarden's acquisition in 2004, which was itself later purchased by Newell Rubbermaid (now Newell Brands).


Early history

Sunbeam's flagship Mixmaster
(model A24, c. 1969-72) Sunbeam Mixmaster 01.jpg
Sunbeam's flagship Mixmaster
(model A24, c.196972)

In 1897 John K. Stewart and Thomas J. Clark incorporated their Chicago Flexible Shaft Company, which made horse trimming and sheep shearing machinery. In 1910 the company produced its first Sunbeam branded household appliance, the Princess Electric Iron (with an option to buy a fireproof metal storage box). The name "Sunbeam" came from a company wide contest to rebrand its growing home appliance business. Edwin J. Gallagher (1897–1983), a buyer and traffic manager for the company, won the contest and received a check for $1,000. The company did not officially change its corporate name to Sunbeam until 1946. [3]

In 1928, the company's head designer, Swedish immigrant Ivar Jepson, alongside Bernard Alton Graham, invented the Mixmaster mixer. Introduced in 1930, it was the first mechanical mixer with two detachable beaters whose blades interlocked. [4] Several attachments were available for the Mixmaster, including a juice extractor, drink mixer, meat grinderfood chopper, [5] and slicershredder. [6] [7] Other accessories include: dough hooks, blender, meat mincer, fine and coarse graters and came with 2 bowl sizes. The bowls rotated, sitting atop a free-running turntable and being driven by the 'edge' beater via a plastic cupped washer on the tip of the beater using friction drive against the sharply sloping side of the bowls near the bottoms. The mixer simply unclips from the base stand so it could be used as a hand mixer too. The Mixmaster became the company's flagship product for the next forty years, but the brand also became known for the designs, mainly by Robert Davol Budlong, of electric toasters, coffee makers, and electric shavers, among other appliances.

The Mixmaster universe, a cosmological model of the early universe, was named after the Mixmaster product. [8]


Sunbeam acquired Rain King Sprinkler Company producing a popular lawn sprinkler line of the 1950s and 1960s. Meanwhile, Sunbeam continued to expand outside of Chicago. By the end of the 1970s, as the leading American manufacturer of small appliances, Sunbeam enjoyed about $1.3 billion in annual sales and employed nearly 30,000 people worldwide. The John Oster Manufacturing Company was acquired in 1960 by Sunbeam Corporation. In 1981, after Sunbeam was bought by Allegheny International Inc. of Pittsburgh, most of the Chicago-area factories were closed and the headquarters moved to downtown Pittsburgh. Under Allegheny International's ownership Sunbeam became the world's largest maker of small appliances through much of the 1980s. Allegheny International moved its headquarters into a 32-floor signature skyscraper in Pittsburgh. [9] During this time the companies Allegheny controlled included John Zink Company (manufactured air pollution control devices) and Hanson Scale (manufactured bathroom scales and other balance machines). [10]

Allegheny's four principal divisions, including Sunbeam, went into decline through the late-1980s. Since Sunbeam-Oster was one of the most important divisions, responsible for nearly half of all sales, the stockholders were very concerned about the leadership. In 1986, the stockholders accused the Chairman and CEO, Robert Buckley of mis-appropriating funds. [11] [12] Buckley's successor, Oliver Travers, downsized considerably and by 1988, the company was essentially just Sunbeam and Oster. The decline continued aided by the stock market crash of October 1987 and Allegheny filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. [13] In the fall of 1989 an investment group called Japonica Partners [14] purchased the remains of Allegheny for $250 million ($614.5 million today) in a hostile takeover. [15] The company was renamed Sunbeam-Oster Company, Inc. At this point the business was then divided into four divisions: Outdoor Products, Household Products, Specialty Products, and International Sales. The company headquarters were moved again from Pittsburgh to Providence, Rhode Island and then finally to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. [16] By late 1991, Sunbeam-Oster's sales had increased 7% enabling it to make the Fortune 500 list.

Fraud investigation and bankruptcy

In 1996, Albert J. Dunlap was recruited to be CEO and chairman of Sunbeam-Oster. Dunlap quickly announced that he would lay off half of Sunbeam-Oster’s work force among other measures. [17] In 1997, Sunbeam reported massive increases in sales for its various backyard and kitchen items. Dunlap purchased controlling interest in Coleman [18] and Signature Brands (acquiring Mr. Coffee and First Alert) during this time. Stock soared to $52 a share. However, industry insiders were suspicious. The sudden surge in demand for barbecues did not hold up under scrutiny. An internal investigation revealed that Sunbeam was in severe crisis, and that Dunlap had encouraged violations of accepted accounting rules. Dunlap was fired, and under CEO Jerry W. Levin, [19] the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2001. [20] [21]

Soon after Sunbeam filed for bankruptcy, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) sued Dunlap and four other Sunbeam executives, alleging that they had engineered a massive accounting fraud. The SEC said $60 million of Sunbeam's supposed record $189 million earnings for 1997 were the result of fraudulent accounting. It also said that Dunlap had falsely created the impression of massive losses in 1996 to make it look as if Sunbeam made a dramatic turnaround the next year. Along with Dunlap and several other officers, the SEC sued Phillip Harlow at Sunbeam's accounting firm, Arthur Andersen. Dunlap was ultimately banned from serving again as an officer or director of a public company.

Post-SEC investigation

In 2002, Sunbeam emerged from bankruptcy as American Household, Inc. (AHI), a privately held company. Its former household products division became the subsidiary Sunbeam Products, Inc.

AHI was purchased in September 2004 by the Jarden Corporation, of which it was a subsidiary. [22]

Jarden continued to grow its brands, purchasing the Holmes Group in 2005, [23] K2 in 2007, [24] and Mapa Spontex in 2009. [25] More recently, Jarden purchased Aero International and Quickie Manufacturing. As of 2015, Sunbeam batteries were made in China and imported into the United States by Greenbrier International and into Canada by DTSC Imports for Dollar Tree stores. [26] Jarden Corporation was purchased by Newell Rubbermaid to form Newell Brands in 2016. [27] [28]

See also

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