A-T-O Inc.

A-T-O Inc.
Item# 3266


Stock Certificate, issued/canceled
American Bank Note Company
The item shown is representative of the piece you will receive




This company was originally founded in 1910 as the "Automatic" Sprinkler Corporation of America, and originated from the merger of 4 small companies in Ohio. The company was incorporated in Delaware in 1919. The firm was bought by 1926 by John A. Coakley, whose family owned it until 1963. Its main offices, located in New York City, were moved to Cleveland and then to Youngstown in 1936, where the plant was located. A sales office remained in Cleveland. The firm's profits were slim in the early 1960s, and Harry E. Figgie, Jr. bought it for $5.8 million on December 31, 1963. With an office in Cleveland's CEI Bldg. Figgie began to diversify the company, targeting 4 markets: fire protection; fluid controls and hydraulic equipment; industrial labor-saving equipment; and electronic instrumentation and components. Between 1965-69, "Automatic" Sprinkler acquired more than 50 divisions to serve these markets and increased its sales from $25 million in 1964 to $379 million in 1969; net income rose from $1.2 million to $8.6 million during the same period. The firm became A-T-O Inc. on October 29, 1969 to reflect its multiple interests, and in August 1970 moved its headquarters from Youngstown to Willoughby.

Tom Yawkey, sole owner of the Red Sox since 1933, died of cancer on July 9, 1976, survived by his 67-year-old widow Jean. With no children to inherit the club, Yawkey left the Red Sox to the Yawkey Trust, a charity controlled by Jean Yawkey and two other trustees. New England braced for the inevitable sale of the Sox.

The Yawkey Trust put the Sox up for bids in 1977, only to reject the high bidder in favor of a suspiciously one-sided inside deal. Although A-T-O, Inc., the parent company of Rawlings Sporting Goods, offered $18,750,000 for the Sox, the trust instead sold the club at a 20% discount to a syndicate headed by Haywood Sullivan, and Edward (Buddy) LeRoux.

Sullivan, a former major league catcher, had spent the past 12 years in the Sox front office. LeRoux, who had served as Red Sox trainer from 1966-74, was a businessman with Florida real estate holdings. Neither had the wealth normally associated with ownership of a major league club, and their bid was far below A-T-O’s. A-T-O sued the Yawkey Trust to invalidate the proposed sale, arguing that the trust had an obligation to generate as much money as possible for itself from the sale of the Sox.

While the suit was pending, Sullivan and LeRoux quickly consolidated their authority. On October 24, 1977, Sullivan became Sox GM and LeRoux became Vice President for Administration. Former GM Dick O’Connell, who had worked for the Sox since 1946, was abruptly discharged. Although O’Connell had long been close to Tom Yawkey, Jean Yawkey said that her husband had decided to fire O’Connell when, less than a month before Yawkey’s death, O’Connell had tried to purchase Joe Rudi and Rollie Fingers from the Oakland Athletics for $1 million each.

The prospective new owners would face no such temptation, because they were woefully undercapitalized. Sullivan and LeRoux, the managing general partners, controlled the club despite investing only $200,000 each. Jean Yawkey contributed another $3 million, while the others in the syndicate borrowed $8 million from State Street Bank & Trust to finance most of their purchase. In return, the bank demanded and received security for the loan: a clause in the loan agreement which limited how much the Sox could spend on player salaries, player development, and free agents.

If the sale had gone through, the State Street security clause would have crippled the Sox during an era when free agency sent salaries soaring. (The Red Sox payroll rose from $1.9 million in 1977 to $14.7 million in 1986.) But the American League rejected the deal. Bud Selig, then chairman of the AL’s finance committee, explained: “This isn’t Cleveland, it’s Boston, the flagship of the American League. This is the most important franchise in the American League, and we can’t afford to let it be underfinanced or second-rate.”

Sullivan and LeRoux finally won American League approval to buy the Sox in May, 1978, after restructuring their ownership group to eliminate the State Street loan. The new group consisted of three general partners – Jean Yawkey, Haywood Sullivan and Buddy LeRoux – and thirty limited partnership shares.

Jean Yawkey was the key to the deal. Through her J.R.Y. Corporation, the Red Sox matriarch bought one of the three general partnership shares for $1 million. She also bought a limited partnership share for $500,000; gave the partnership the land under Fenway Park, valued at $5.5 million; and loaned Haywood Sullivan $1 million to buy his share. Buddy LeRoux bought the third general partnership share, as well as four limited partnership shares. Kentucky coal magnate Rogers Badgett invested $5 million in ten limited partnership shares, with the remaining 15 divided among six purchasers. The new deal was valued at $18 million, with nearly half the total -- and all of the increase – coming from Jean Yawkey’s pocket.

The company itself manufactured baseball bats, gloves, balls, shoes and uniforms for such companies as Rawlings and Adirondack. A-T-O also manufactured firefighting equipment under the American LaFrance name.OH-Ohio Sports and Related Sporting Goods Baseball Fire and Safety Products Under $10 Under $5 Distinguished Gentlemen Stately Buildings

All certificates are sold only as collectible pieces, as they are either canceled or obsolete. Certificates carry no value on any of today's financial indexes and no transfer of ownership is implied. Unless otherwise indicated, images are representative of the piece(s) you will receive.