The Auction Deal

By Lloyd Graff

Today, I thought it was time to write something that I actually know something about.

Why are some of the big players in the machining business selling out or being auctioned off these days?

One of the biggest screw machine sales in years is coming up in November at Triumph Manufacturing in Tempe, Arizona, just outside of Phoenix. Triumph’s owner Chris Mueller went into business in the late 1960s after coming to America from Switzerland as a Tornos employee. Mueller built Triumph into a strong player in long run parts and has been running the company with his daughter in recent years. He has had many ups and downs over the years but always managed to survive because of his technical acumen and resourcefulness. He was on the verge of selling to numerous operating groups but never seemed to get a deal that worked for all parties.

A person who is familiar with Mueller and Triumph Manufacturing told me he thinks Mueller felt an American was probably incapable of running his many Swiss and German screw machines effectively. I have also heard that he preferred Hilco as an auction firm because he liked their prominence in Europe. I believe that Triumph would have sold for quite a bit more money several years ago, but Mueller always believed he would turn the company around—a trap many entrepreneurial owners fall into.

Finally, a few months ago, he made the decision to let go and allow the auction process to proceed. Competitors quickly grabbed all the major contracts. Auction groups formed almost overnight to bid on the project. I chose not to be involved in the bidding because I saw the market weakening in Europe for the Swiss and German machines. With a falling Euro, I did not have the stomach for the risk, but many others did.

From a screw machine dealer’s viewpoint the seventeen 20mm 8-spindle Tornos machines are the key element in the sale. If they go at retail prices the sale will be a triumph. If not, c’est la vie. I wish them well.


Do you like buying at Auctions?

Do you feel you are a more disciplined buyer bidding online?

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5 thoughts on “The Auction Deal

  1. Robert Ducanis


    I viewed the HILCO action flyer. Can you explain why the auction is divided up into Days #1 and #2 as ‘LIVE & WEBCAST’ and Days 3/4/5 are ‘ONLINE’ only?.

  2. John Griner

    I am just going to comment it is sad that 2 very fine competitors Triumph and (perhaps) another more local and historic company are going the way of the auction process. We are alive, robust and they aren’t. Its a mystery to me. High volume machining can be a tough business at times. Luck plays a role, so does hard work, focus, and resilience.
    I’m sad for them. Nuff said.

  3. Paul Huber

    It is improbable that Chris Mueller is/was of the opinion that an American is incapable to run Triumph . He has been dealing with American executives on all levels ever since his arrival in the U.S. in the 1960’s and certainly knows that there are some capable people out there.
    No one will spend a reasonable amount to purchase a specialized manufacturing facility without absolute assurance that the present staff is capable and willing to work with the new owner.
    Selling my Swiss screw machine business in 1989 was a struggle until I found a suitable American buyer with a skilled staff.

    Buying at an auction? Just as well risk your money in Vegas.
    Bidders on line often search the web for comparable machinery and bid with caution without getting involved in a bidding war.

    Paul Huber

  4. fred

    Mixed feelings on auctions. I’ve gotten the best deals on things left over that didn’t sell.
    I do enjoy the networking aspect. But as for auctioneers specifically, they’re a slippery bunch. Watched many bidders over the years bidding against “the man in the back that wasn’t there”, and these were supposedly highly acclaimed and reputable (Ha!) auctioneers.
    At a small local auction years ago, small time auctioneer, I actually stopped him and asked just WHO I was actually bidding against, because there’s no one back in that corner where you keep pointing and nodding. He told me if I kept being “disruptive” he’d call the sheriff. I said “YOU go right ahead, I’ll wait right here to speak with him about YOU”. Big round of laughter. Then the crowd began to thin out considerably.

  5. Seth Emerson

    Remember the story about you and your friend meeting a grizzly bear on the trail. If running, you need not outrun the bear, just your friend! Of course, at an auction, if you don’t have a real “friend” in competition, the Bear will probably get you instead.


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