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Jeld Wen’s History

Jeld Wen:
Built to Last

Founded in 1960 with 15 employees, Jeld-Wen, Inc. is a privately held manufacturer of windows, doors, and millwork products for sale to wholesale distributors, home centers, and the manufactured housing industries.

Headquartered in Klamath Falls, Oregon, Jeld-Wen employs more than 20,000 people worldwide and operates more than 150 facilities. Jeld-Wen cuts lumber from its own timberlands and its products include interior and exterior doors, garage doors, door frames, moldings, windows, and patio doors.

1960s/70s: The Beginning

Jeld-Wen was founded in 1960, its name formed from the first initials of cofounder Dick Wendt and his siblings and a shortened version of their surname. Wendt, an Iowa native, had been a manager at Caradco, a window manufacturer in Illinois, when its East Coast parent company sold it. The Wendts and partner Larry Wetter, Jeld-Wen’s original vice-chairman, purchased a small millwork plant in Klamath Falls, Oregon, once a bustling timber town five hours’ drive from both Portland and San Francisco.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Jeld-Wen focused on expanding its core business, developing a number of related subsidiaries, some in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Iowa, and Washington. Then, beginning in the early 1980s, the company changed strategies and folded many of these subsidiaries into itself. It also purchased a number of other related businesses in the fields of construction and building supplies, among them Frank Paxton Co. of Kansas City, Missouri, a hardwood products distributor.

1980s: Massive Growth

As a result of its many operations, Jeld-Wen experienced considerable growth. Its 1986 sales totaled $100 million while its employees numbered about 2,500 people. The company ranked seventh in 1989 among privately held companies in Oregon with revenues between $350 million and $399 million. By 1991, its sales had grown to more than $400 million. By 1998, Jeld-Wen was Oregon’s largest privately held company and one of the world’s largest window and door manufacturers, with revenues topping $1 billion. Jeld-Wen employed 11,000 people at more than 150 companies in 40 states and several foreign countries. In Oregon, the company employed 2,500 people, 700 of those at its home base in Klamath Falls.

1990s: Continued Acceleration

In 1996,¬†Forbes¬†ranked Jeld-Wen 225th among the nation’s top 500 private companies, estimating its annual revenues at $850 million, an increase of almost 13 percent from 1995. A year later, that ranking had moved up to 119th with the company’s estimated revenues at $1.39 billion. Much of this money came from the success of Jeld-Wen’s real estate ventures. Throughout the 1980s, Jeld-Wen and its subsidiaries had built or bought 19 West Coast resorts, ranging from British Columbia to Hawaii. By the early 1990s, Worldmark, the company’s timeshare program, had 40,000 members, mostly baby boomers, who purchased points to split vacation time among any of the resorts.

By James Aiken

President of Legacy Search, James Aiken has been dynamically involved in recruiting the elite candidates within the building materials industry for many years. With strength in sales and operations, James has built out multiple sales teams for manufacturers and distributors alike. Email him at james@legacysearch.net

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