Section Editor: Mike Morris

Two of the world's oldest, largest, and most respected makers of hand and power tools surprised just about everyone in November by announcing that they intend to combine their many assets to form an $8.4 billion global tool company, to be called Stanley Black & Decker. As of this writing, the merger is awaiting shareholder and U.S. antitrust approval.

Company officials said overtures to consolidate the two entities had been made previously, but it wasn't until summer, when Stanley executives reached out to B&D, that talks began in earnest. "It was a well-kept secret around here," said one manager.

The new company will combine a long list of iconic hand and power tool brands, but officials are keeping mum about whether all of those brands will continue after the merger.

Stanley's Bostitch and Black & Decker's DeWalt brands, for instance, offer competing pneumatic tool products. Most of the other brands of both companies complement each other, however, and the merger will create a new corporate entity with enormous research, manufacturing, and marketing strength in numerous industry categories.

"I wouldn't expect the individual brands to change much – they're very complementary," said Roger Young, a Black & Decker vice president. "The power tool headquarters will remain here in Towson [Maryland] along with the research and development function." As for how the merger might affect tool buyers, Young added that the combined company's financial and global manufacturing strength would be enhanced, along with its ability "to take cost out," which would benefit consumers.

Stanley Works makes and sells dozens of brand-name tools and products worldwide. In the U.S., the company is best known for its construction, security, and industrial products, including such brands as Stanley, Proto, Husky, Mac, and Goldblatt hand tools; Bostitch pneumatic tools; Facom screwdrivers and fastening tools; Stanley Security Solutions alarm and monitoring systems; and Vidmar industrial storage systems. Similarly, Black & Decker has a global manufacturing and distribution business offering scores of brand-name products. American tradesmen and consumers are most familiar with Black & Decker-brand consumer products, outdoor tools, and appliances; DeWalt portable power tools, pneumatic tools, and compressors; Porter-Cable portable power tools; Delta Machinery saws and shop equipment; Emhart Teknologies fastening tools and products; Kwikset, Baldwin, and Weiser locks and hardware; and Price Pfister faucets and plumbing fixtures.

"We'll see how it plays out," said one Stanley manager. "Nobody really knows what's going to happen right now, but it's pretty exciting.

I know this is a great company and I think it's going to be great for everyone."