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Unifrax sold to buyout firm AEA Investors keeps management

Unifrax Corp., a Niagara Falls-based ceramic fiber insulation products maker, has changed hands for the second time in less than three years.

AEA Investors LLC, a New York-based private-equity firm, said it has agreed to buy Unifrax from American Securities Capital Partners, another New York City-based private-equity firm that had acquired the company in 2003.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed and executives from AEA and Unifrax could not be reached to comment, but the company's management will stay on and will have a "meaningful ownership interest" in the firm, Unifrax said in a statement.

Unifrax, which has about 300 employees in the Buffalo Niagara region, has a large plant in the Town of Tonawanda and smaller plants in Amherst and Sanborn, in addition to its headquarters. Worldwide, the company has about 1,100 employees at 13 manufacturing facilities in the United States, Europe, Asia and Latin America.

William P. Kelly, Unifrax's chairman and chief executive officer, said AEA is expected to continue seeking ways to increase the company's sales. "The AEA team is keenly interested in our opportunity to continue to grow the business and successfully implement our long-term strategy," he said in the statement.

Unifrax's sales have grown from more than $150 million in 2002 to more than $220 million last year, the company said.

Brian Hoesterey, an AEA partner, described Unifrax as a "thriving business serving diverse markets around the world with great opportunities for future growth."

"It is exactly the type of business AEA likes to invest in -- profitable, with a strong management team and outstanding growth prospects," he said.

The sale is expected to close within two months.

e-mail: drobinson@buffnews.com