May 25, 2006
AMSOIL looks ahead for fast-track growth
By Jane Brissett
AMSOIL, the Superior company that manufactures
synthetic motor oil, will announce to its dealers today a new management
team that's expected to lead the company to more than double its
size during the next five years.
Al Amatuzio, the company's founder and chief who
unabashedly claims "we make the best oil in the world,"
sees that AMSOIL will need more expertise and energy at the top
to grow. He has turned over many of his responsibilities to his
son and son-in-law.
Now they'll have a team to help them.
AMSOIL, which calls itself the largest independent
manufacturer of synthetic lubricants in the world, will introduce
seven new vice presidents and directors to 225 dealers meeting in
the Twin Ports.
The company has been preparing for a full-throttle
expansion for the past couple of years. It expanded its physical
presence with the purchase of the 8.5-acre warehouse at the base
of the Bong Bridge once owned by Fleming Cos., a grocery wholesaler.
It has about 250 employees.
"The company will become a giant corporation
one of these days," predicted Amatuzio, the company's charismatic
president, CEO and founder.
Amatuzio, a former jet fighter pilot, founded
the company after observing characteristics of synthetic oil in
jet engines -- reduced engine wear, good performance in extreme
temperatures and long life. He thought, correctly as it turns out,
that synthetic oil also could be used in automobiles.
He is considered by some to be a pioneer in synthetic
Amatuzio is a native of Duluth's Raleigh Street.
He served 25 years in the Air Guard and built the company after
retiring from the military. Since its founding in 1972, Amatuzio
has received numerous awards for his leadership in the industry.
Now at age 82 he spends somewhat less time at
the office, leaving much of the company's leadership to his son,
Alan Amatuzio, executive vice president and chief operating officer;
and son-in-law, Dean Alexander, executive vice president and general
manager. The elder Amatuzio will retire "when I hit 100,"
he said with a laugh.
The company is built on a multi-level marketing
strategy, similar to Tupperware or Mary Kay Cosmetics, in which
much of the selling is done through person-to-person contacts. AMSOIL
claims 90,000 dealers around the world, some of whom are purported
to be millionaires.
Officials don't disclose the company's annual
revenue, but Al said it is more than a business directory's estimate
of $50 million to $75 million. AMSOIL has seen annual double-digit
growth since 1990, Alexander said.
All manufacturing and laboratory development takes
place in Superior. Within two or three years, it is expected be
located at the warehouse building, now called AMSOIL Center. AMSOIL
has invested about $500,000 in the building to date, Al said.
The synthetic lubricants banner has been taken
up by the big oil companies such as ExxonMobil or Shell, for which
AMSOIL is no match in size. Al said his company, an independent,
beats the big ones on quality, however.
"Synthetic is a term that means different
things to different people," said Dennis Bachelder, senior
engineer in oil licensing at the American Petroleum Institute. API
has set standards for motor oils in conjunction with major automakers
since the early 1980s, he said. Some of Amsoil's numerous products
are API licensed.
AMSOIL uses a synthetic base for its oil, but
some synthetic oil manufacturers use highly refined oil, Bachelder
said. AMSOIL, Bachelder said, tends to use "very high-quality
The company does its own lab testing and field
testing, Alan said.
Al told his dealers in a company magazine that
Texaco once offered to buy him out. He turned down that bid and
his son said he sees no way big oil could put AMSOIL out of business.
"The only way they can shut us down is to compete against us
and beat us, which they can't do," Alan said.
Instead, the company will continue to grow in
Superior with the help of its new team, Al said. The location, though,
can be a hindrance to recruiting.
"Bringing industry people to this area is
a challenge," Alexander said. The severe winter weather and
remote location aren't for everyone, he said.
AMSOIL is one of the top five locally owned employers
in Superior, said Andy Lisak, executive director of the Superior-Douglas
County Development Association.
It's one company that provides jobs for highly
educated people -- with degrees in accounting, chemistry or finance,
for example, Lisak said. "They don't get a lot of fanfare,
but they're creating jobs year by year and they're sustainable jobs."
Although the company is quiet in its home community,
it aggressively markets its products and is extending the fanfare
this week to AMSOIL University, the meeting of dealers who are in
Superior and Duluth attending classes to learn more about their
On Wednesday evening, the dealers and other guests
were invited to a dinner and a surprise movie premiere. It turned
out to be a 90-minute, $100,000 documentary-type production about
Al's life as told by family, friends and associates.
The film is called "Albert J. Amatuzio: An
American Success Story."