An Industry Giant Retires

By David Savastano, Ink World Editor | 09.09.05

After more than 40 years at Sun Chemical, Edward E. Barr is stepping down as chairman.

To say that Edward E. Barr is a seminal figure in the printing ink industry is an understatement. When Mr. Barr joined Sun Chemical in 1962, the company had annual sales of $25 million in ink and pigments. In 2001, Sun Chemical’s ink and pigment sales were $3.5 billion.

On Jan. 1, Mr. Barr will retire as chairman, Sun Chemical Group B.V. Mr. Barr said that he felt the time had come for the next generation of leaders, led by new chairman Wes Lucas, to fully take the helm of Sun Chemical.

“I am 66, and I believe that one of the important responsibilities of a CEO is to prepare for his succession,” Mr. Barr said. “I’ve seen too many examples where it’s been deleterious.”

Mr. Barr had served as Sun Chemical’s chairman, president and CEO for 11 years until 1997, when he transferred the titles of president and CEO to Henri Dyner. Mr. Dyner retired earlier this year.

“This process began five years ago when I transferred day-to-day responsibilities to Henri,” Mr. Barr said. “We needed to have the company not identified 24/7 with Ed Barr. I felt that in terms of Sun activities this is the perfect time for me.

“I am indebted to Sun Chemical’s men and women, past and present, throughout the world for their dedication and loyalty in building our company to its global leadership position,” Mr. Barr added.

Mr. Barr said that Mr. Lucas is the right person to take over Sun Chemical. “I wouldn’t be looking forward to new challenges if Wes wasn’t such a strong person,” he said.

Edward E. Barr
Mr. Lucas said he is grateful for all that Mr. Barr has taught him during the past two years.

“I have enormous respect for Ed,” said Mr. Lucas, who is also Sun Chemical’s president and CEO. “He really is one of the truly great leaders in the industry. He has transformed the industry and created a great company in Sun Chemical. He’s very intuitive, and what he has done here is truly remarkable.”

The Ink Industry – Then and Now
In 1957, Mr. Barr graduated NYU’s Stern School of Business, received his master of science degree in economics from the University of Michigan and participated in NYU’s Ph.D. program in economics. By 1962, Mr. Barr could select any industry he wanted to join, and he chose the ink industry. Mr. Barr began his career with Sun Chemical as assistant to the president, moving up to group vice president and executive vice president, until he was elected Sun Chemical’s president and COO in 1975.

As soon as he joined Sun Chemical. Mr. Barr began to formulate and implement the ideas that would spur Sun’s growth.

“When I came to this business it was basically a cottage industry,” Mr. Barr said. “It was an important field, but it was not run by the business principles I had learned. It was substantially composed of family-owned companies. We saw there was an opportunity to be a change engine.”

The first decision made by Mr. Barr was to focus the company’s energies on its core ink and pigment segments. Mr. Barr’s first responsibility was to divest non-core businesses from Sun Chemical. Next, the company began to focus on creating new and improved technologies, hiring Dan Carlick from Interchemical to develop the company’s increasing R&D resources, build state-of-the-art technical centers and change the way large batches of ink was made.

“When Dan Carlick came to Sun, we became the first ink company to concentrate on scientific fundamentals,” Mr. Barr said. “We also recognized that the then-current manufacturing technology was also the product of this cottage industry, so we pioneered motherplants to rethink how we made printing ink. Graphic arts was a growth industry, which played to our developing management teams, motherplants, technical centers, things that were happening in other industries, but not in ink.”

The company’s successful expansion into Europe would follow. Sun Chemical grew from $20 million in sales in Europe in 1974 to $1.5 billion last year. Other regions experienced similar growth.

Not everything about the ink industry needed to be changed, however. The importance of relationships has remained a constant.

“The industry was not very professionally run, but it had very special relationships with its customers. There was a lot of close contact,” Mr. Barr said. “We developed relationships based on trust and agreement on objectives.”

Mr. Barr left the company in 1982 to become CEO and partner with Courtaulds plc in an American-based specialty chemicals joint venture. He rejoined Sun Chemical as its president and CEO following the company’s reorganization at the beginning of 1987.

“I was very happy at Courtaulds, but when the opportunity came up, I came back in a heartbeat,” Mr. Barr said.

The acquisition of Sun Chemical by Dainippon Ink & Chemicals (DIC) soon followed. Mr. Barr was named a member of the board of directors of DIC from 1988 to 2002, where he was the only non-Japanese member of the DIC board.

Mr. Barr said the relationship with DIC has been excellent, and that he learned much from his experiences with DIC.

Edward E. Barr with a few of the honors he has received during his more than four decades in the printing ink industry.
“We are all prisoners of our background,” Mr. Barr said. “One of the great things about capitalism in North America and Europe is that you have to create all the time for your business. Things are more formal in Japan. I would say that Sun Chemical’s experience would have been impossible in Japan – it’s not as openly dynamic as our markets have been. When I started in the business, the leading ink companies in Japan were DIC and Toyo, and that has not changed in the past 41 years. When I came to Sun, the two leading U.S. companies were Interchemical and Sinclair & Valentine, who are long gone. We let the best rise to the top.”

Mr. Barr became chairman of Sun Chemical Group B.V., the holding company of Sun Chemical Corporation, in 1997. In this role, he has advised the senior management of Sun Chemical on matters of strategy, long range planning and future opportunities to expand the company’s world leadership position in the graphic arts and colorant industries.

Recent years have seen an increasing emphasis on lowering prices.

“As an industry, we are under unparalleled pressure,” Mr. Barr said. “A concatenation of effects – the recession, 9-11, the Internet – has reduced demand and levels of confidence and transferred some business. With this has come an unduly emphasized concentration on price, and when this is combined with some printing companies being led by people with no background in the industry, it can be a troublesome combination. I don’t find this to be an exceptionally constructive time in the industry.”

Mr. Barr believes the answer to this problem can be found by educating customers on the value of the ink they are purchasing.

“The good news is that we can develop products and applicable know-how that can make our customers more cost-effective,” Mr. Barr said. “That has been very successful. We have found that increasingly that’s what our customers are seeking. It requires a major emphasis on education and the burden falls on us as an industry to restart the dialog. Purchasing needs to be partnered with technical people and supply chain management. As an industry, we are lost if decisions are solely based on the price per pound of ink.”

Many Honors
Over the years, Mr. Barr has received countless awards for his outstanding service to the industry and the community.

The National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers (NAPIM) honored Mr. Barr with its Printing Ink Pioneer Award in 1990, and its Ault Award, the most prestigious honor in the industry, in 1996. Earlier this year, the Web Offset Association (WOA) presented Mr. Barr with its Vision Award, making him the first supplier to receive the highest honor in its field.

“The Ault Award was a selection by my peers and it’s an award based on one’s collective contribution,” Mr. Barr said. “Many people I respect have received it. The WOA award is also one I am delighted about; that’s more of a fraternity award. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for the web offset community.”

On the university front, Mr. Barr was named an NYU distinguished alumnus and was awarded the school’s John T. Madden Memorial Medal in 1978. Mr. Barr was elected an NYU Albert Gallatin Fellow in 1979 and a life member of the Albert Gallatin Associates in 1984. Mr. Barr’s honorary degrees include a doctor of science (honoris causa) from the New Jersey Institute of Technology and a doctor of laws from Monmouth College in New Jersey.

Mr. Barr’s Future
While leaving Sun Chemical will be a major change for Mr. Barr, there is no doubt that he will pursue numerous opportunities.

“There’s a nostalgia about my leaving,” Mr. Barr said. “It’s been nearly 41 years, but at the same time I have other things that I want and need to do with my life, and they don’t include golf or sitting around by the pool.” He does anticipate sharing more time with his wife Nancy, their four children – Edward, Uta, Chris and Andy, and their four grandchildren.

Mr. Barr will also remain Sun’s senior director of Kodak Polychrome Graphics, the company’s pre-press joint venture with Eastman Kodak.

“Kodak Polychrome Graphics has been a brilliant success story,” Mr. Barr said. “The credit goes to Jeff Jacobsen and the accomplished team he has assembled.

“It’s a digital world,” Mr. Barr continued. “No one really has to touch an image until it is on the plate. The industry has been moving strongly in this direction, and I think we are uniquely situated to help drive this trend.”

Mr. Barr is also examining possibilities outside of the industry.

“I also have a few exciting opportunities I am looking at that are not in graphic arts, as I am so clearly defined by my passion with Sun Chemical,” Mr. Barr said.

Mr. Barr has served on numerous boards of directors for major corporations and institutions. From 1985 to 1987, Mr. Barr chaired the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology, a blue ribbon panel responsible for guiding the economic development of the state. He currently serves as a director of United Water Resources, Harrington Park, NJ, and of Noosh, an Internet-based strategic sourcing company based in Santa Clara, CA.

In addition, Mr. Barr is a trustee of Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, Milwaukee, WI. He was also a director of First Union (Wachovia), the fourth largest bank in the U.S., and its predecessors, from 1975 to 2001.

Mr. Barr is disgusted with the accounting scandals that have occurred at Enron, WorldCom and others, and blames their respective boards of directors for not demanding oversight.

“I’ve served on the board of directors for a number of companies, and I’ve always had the philosophy that directors are to be responsible, engaged and ethical,” Mr. Barr said. “Everyone I talk to is shocked and appalled. I believe that industry leaders have special responsibility, and apparently some were focused on what’s in it for them. The real cure is in our hearts and minds. There has to be a special trust, and I think we’re heading back to that.”

Education is another passion for Mr. Barr, dating back to his childhood.

“I grew up in a little town in Pennsylvania,” Mr. Barr recalled. “My dad was a policeman, and my mother, who was a schoolteacher, insisted we had to read the New York Times. She instilled in me a love of reading, of books and of education, which led to me attending New York University, and I’m deeply grateful to NYU for their support of an impoverished student.”

His love of education has led to his commitment to working with universities. From 1976 to 1985, he was a member of the New Jersey Board of Higher Education, serving as its chairman from 1978 to 1981. He is currently an overseer of NYU’s Stern School, where he recently led the development of Stern’s Strategic Plan. In addition, Mr. Barr is a member of the Dean’s Council at the John F. Kennedy School of Government of Harvard University.

“We all belong to the same community and need to help each other,” Mr. Barr said. “As I look forward to the future, continuing with that is an important part of my life. I’m engaged in a dialog to bring to the Kennedy School people from the Middle East who will go back afterward and help run their countries. We need a better understanding of their society and they also need a better understanding of ours.”

Mr. Barr emphasized the importance of developing leaders who are educated in more than business practices.

“We’re turning out finely honed educated people from our business schools who are prepared to make a contribution, but we should go beyond that, to engender the skills to lead people,” Mr. Barr said. “That’s much harder to do.

“You have to do something that interests you, something that energizes you, that is psychologically rewarding and gives you broad insights into life,” Mr. Barr continued. “You have to recognize that without the support of people all working together as a team, a relationship is not fully productive. I worked with some great people. For example, Norman Alexander was a great boss; Gordon MacQuaker taught the ink business to me. There were so many people I worked with as peers.”

Mr. Barr said that he believes that the future of Sun Chemical is strong.

“I believe that the people at Sun have a good platform with which to work from, and the ability to get to the next level,” Mr. Barr said. “I’m confident that as the printing industry’s needs evolve, Sun Chemical will be right there.”