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Flexi-Van Corporation - Lehman Brothers Collection

Flexi-Van Corporation

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Leo L. Mellam founded Flexi-Van Corporation in 1955. As a member of the transportation industry, Mellam was widely known as the "father of containerization" and is credited with developing the model for containerized-freight transportation that became used throughout the world. Mellam invented the Flexi-Van patented procedure to move truck trailers off chassis onto railroad cars. Mellam had over thirty years of trucking industry experience prior to founding the company.

Flexi-Van Corporation's chief business was the leasing of containers, tractors, trailers, chassis, and other equipment for the intermodel transportation of freight. The equipment facilitated the transfer of freight between shipping, trucking, and railroad lines, resulting in a savings of both time and labor for the shipper. The company also furnished integrated transportation and processing services to selected apparel retailers.

The company achieved high levels of growth in the areas of pre-tax profits, net income, and cash flow. Compared to other prominent companies in the transportation leasing business, such as Ryder Systems, Inc., and Leaseway Transportation Corp. that had debt to total capitalization ratios between 66 percent to 80 percent, Flexi-Van held the ratio to only 53 percent in the mid-1970s. The three product lines in the mid-1970s were containers and chassis ($113 million at original cost); trailers ($42 million at original cost); and tractors and trucks ($30 million at original cost). The company became the most diversified lessor of transportation equipment in its industry because their strategy was to diversify exposure to specific markets by leasing various types of equipment, rather than limiting or specializing in equipment for only one market.

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