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Saltchuk buys Carlile, adds to Alaska freight portfolio

Posted: July 5, 2013 - 12:05am

Carlile Transportation System has joined a list of well-known Alaska freight and logistics companies under the Saltchuk Resources Inc. umbrella.

The sale of the noted trucking company to Seattle-based Saltchuk was finalized May 31 for an undisclosed amount, according to a company press release.

Carlile CEO and co-founder Harry McDonald said the transaction came about quickly.

“We’ve had a long, long relationship with (Saltchuk) for over 20 years,” McDonald said. “(Saltchuk Chairman) Mark Tabbutt just called me up and said they’ve been thinking about it and they thought we’d fill a niche for them.”

Saltchuk also owns Totem Ocean Trailer Express, or TOTE; Cook Inlet Tug and Barge Inc.; Northern Air Cargo; and North Star Petroleum, which operates Alaska fuel distributors Delta Western Inc. and Cook Inlet Petroleum Co. It employs roughly 5,500 people through its network nationwide.

Carlile has been added to the TOTE transportation network, the release states.

“As with all of the Saltchuk companies, we will reinvest in Carlile’s assets, pursue growth opportunities and build on the very strong foundation the McDonald family has built for the future,” Tabbutt said in a formal statement.

McDonald founded Carlile with his brother, John McDonald, in 1980. The pair grew the company from two trucks to its current size of more than 350 trucks with about 700 employees. With its headquarters in Anchorage, Carlile operates a total of 10 terminals in Alaska, Washington, Texas, Minnesota and Alberta, Canada.

He had been approached before about selling his company, McDonald said, but the fit was never right for him or his employees. He said Saltchuk’s commitment to growing Carlile was a big factor in the sale moving forward.

He added that having worked with other Saltchuk companies as a vendor or customer provided a reassuring relationship base. The sale also solved what the 65-year old McDonald called a “retirement problem,” he said.

“(Saltchuk) has the ability to capitalize on opportunities that we would have had to pass on,” McDonald said.

Becoming a part of a larger company also affords Carlile the use of Saltchuk’s IT and management resources, McDonald noted.

Saltchuk President Tim Engle cited in a release Carlile’s emphasis on safety as a strong factor in acquiring the company.

“There is a lot of similarity between Carlile and our other operations — we have people often exposed to harsh environments and working around and relying on heavy machinery. Getting everyone home safe to their families is our number one priority,” Engle said.

McDonald said the specifics of his role are still being defined but it appears he will stay on with TOTE for a few years and work as an intermediary between the existing companies.

He will likely head a team that coordinates operations on large projects between Carlile and the other Saltchuk entities.

“Carlile has developed a tremendous brand in the markets it serves,” TOTE President James Armstrong said in a statement. “The brand is defined by its people who are proud, enthusiastic and loyal. We’re looking forward to becoming one team.”

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