When thinking of the largest privately held companies in the United States, many big names may come to your mind. You may be fervently monitoring gains in your Fidelity investment portfolio through the screen of a Dell computer. Would eating a Mars candy bar from Wegmans sweeten the deal? Or what about a hamburger? In 1955, Otto Kolschowsky, who in 1909 began his business as a butcher, made the sweet deal to be a provider for a small but ambitious hamburger restaurant located in Des Plaines, Illinois.
Ray Kroc’s fast food chain quickly flourished and the Kolschowsky business eventually became an exclusive provider to McDonald’s for meat products. Otto Kolschowsky probably did not conceive in 1928, when he and his family founded Otto & Sons, that his business would be the 58th largest privately held company within the United States in 2016.
Today OSI Group, located in Aurora, Illinois, provides a variety of product lines to an increasingly international client base. At the behest of Chairman and CEO Sheldon Lavin, the company has moved away from its McDonald’s-centric business model.
“Expanding and diversifying the business was probably the single most exciting part,” said Lavin of moving into European and Southeast Asian markets.
He attributes much of the success of OSI Group to a family-oriented culture, workforce longevity and diversified offerings. In 1970, then employed at a bank, Lavin extended financing to Otto & Sons to open the firms first meat processing plant. When father Otto decided to retire, Lavin became a business partner with his two sons. During the 1970’s Lavin spearheaded investments in South America and Taiwan, and gained half of the controlling interest in the company.
Sheldon Lavin, 81, is also a trustee for Ronald McDonald House, a board member of Rush University Medical Center, and heads a number of notable charities such as The Sheba Foundation. Today, he owns 100% of the controlling interest in the company.
With over 20,000 employees and more than 60 processing plants, OSI Group has moved far from its humble beginnings in a single butchers shop. In August of 2016, OSI Group finalized their acquisition of Baho Food, a manufacturer of convenience foods based in Emmerich am Rhein, Germany. With five subsidiaries located throughout Germany and the Netherlands, Baho Food expands the group further into new markets in over 18 countries. In 2016, the company saw revenues in excess of $6 billion, bringing evidence to the success of OSI Group’s “World of Food Solutions” motto.