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Corning Sells Steuben Glass

Private equity company acquires the luxury crystal business and intends to continue operations in upstate New York.

CORNING, N.Y. (AP) -- Corning Inc. has agreed to sell its Steuben Glass division to a private equity company that intends to continue operations in upstate New York.

Corning executives announced an agreement Wednesday to sell the luxury crystal business to the newly formed Steuben Glass LLC, an affiliate of Schottenstein Stores Corp. Steuben will be part of the Schottenstein Luxury Group portfolio.

Corning, which has owned Steuben Glass since 1918, will maintain a 19.9 percent equity stake. Other terms of the agreement, expected to be finalized in the third quarter, were not disclosed.

Launched by English designer Frederick Carder in 1903, Steuben has been unprofitable for a decade and lost $30 million over the last five years. Corning announced plans in March to sell, saying it would consider shutting the factory, which employs 150 people, if it couldn't find a buyer.

"We couldn't be more thrilled for the employees of Steuben, its customers and the residents of Corning, N.Y.," said Corning's chief financial officer, James Flaws. "Schottenstein Stores Corporation is one of the premier private retail institutions in America."

Columbus, Ohio-based Schottenstein Stores has stakes in American Eagle Outfitters, Retail Ventures Inc., which is the parent of DSW, and other stores. Chairman and Chief Executive Jay Schottenstein called Steuben Glass "a national treasure."

It is the only luxury lead crystal still handcrafted in the United States. Steuben's ornamental works of art can cost into the tens of thousands of dollars.

"We are fully prepared to grow and expand the business and believe there is tremendous opportunity to extend the Steuben brand in key markets around the world," Schottenstein said.

Retail sales will continue at a Madison Avenue flagship store in New York City.

Corning Inc. evolved in the 1990s into the world's biggest maker of optical fiber and cable and now dominates the global market for liquid crystal display glass used in computer and television monitors. But sales of pure-lead crystal have been diminishing, and Steuben Glass lost $5.7 million in 2007.

Flaws said employees at the Steuben plant will receive the same salary and benefits under the new ownership. The United Steelworkers of America represent 85 Steuben employees.

"It was a tough situation, and I couldn't have asked for a better outcome, frankly," said the union local's president Mike Walker.

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