The $62,000,000 General Aniline & Film Co., whose Swiss owners want to sell it, was understood to have found a bidder last week. The would-be buyer was not named. When and if the sale is made, a medalwhether for bravery, ingenuity or at the very least dope-upsettingwill be in order for the buyer.
General Aniline is a desirable property. It is the second largest U.S. manufacturer of photographic equipment (after Eastman), and is tied for third place with American Cyanamid (after Allied Chemical and Du Pont) in the making of dye-stuffs. Its earnings$4,106,000 last year are bolstered with defense business; among other things it is the largest U.S. producer of khaki dyes.
But it was formed under the auspices of I. G. Farbenindustrie, the great German dye trust, and it has prospered with the help of Farben skills and patents. Two years ago General Anilineuntil then known as American I. G. Chemical Corp. reorganized, and has since denied or minimized any Nazi affiliations. But it cannot seem to convince the U.S. Government that its ownership is in trustworthy hands.
More than 90% of General Aniline's stock is owned "of record" by the I. G. Chemie of Switzerland, but nobody has said who the "beneficial" (real) owners are. I. G. Chemie is a holding company, set up by and once on intimate terms with I. G. Farben. The intimacy was ostensibly terminated a year ago; I. G. Chemie paid I. G. Farben 25,000,000 Swiss francs, and the Farben's interest in I. G. Chemie seemed almost to vanish. But General Aniline's outward characteristics remained not Swiss but German. Its president, Dietrich A. Schmitz, is a brother of the chairman of the board of I. G. Farben, Hermann Schmitz. Walter H. vom Rath, Aniline's secretary, is the son of a Schmitz predecessor as chairman of the Farben. General Aniline had some distinguished American directors when the Germans set it up in '27. But Walter Clark Teagle, chairman of Standard Oil of N.J. (with which the Farben used to share patents) resigned from the Aniline board last year, and Edgar M. Clark (a Standard Oil man) and Edsel Ford followed suit early this month. As the U.S. got less & less neutral, the Nazi cloud over Aniline looked thicker every day.
Few months ago a remarkable new character appeared on the stage. Blond, blue-eyed, young (32) Dr. Werner Karl Gabler is a Zurich-born Swiss who is also a New Dealer. He has been in the U.S. about five years, taken out his first papers, once served as ghost writer to the late philanthropic Edward A. Filene, became well known in Washington as economist-lobbyist for the liberal American Retail Federation. Suddenly, at the suggestion of the Swiss Minister (whose wife is Henry Wallace's sister), Gabler was offered a new retainer: the I. G. Chemie. His assignment: to negotiate the sale of Chemie's 90% interest in General Aniline to Americans, thus get Aniline out from under its Nazi cloud.