Barry Zekelman is the executive chairman and CEO of Zekelman Industries, a leading multi-billion-dollar North American steel pipe and tube maker. Together with his two brothers, they run a business that has been in their family for multiple generations.
Barry Zekelman was born in 1967 (age 55) in the city of Windsor, Canada. His father, Harry Zekelman, started the structural tubing company Atlas Tube in the last two years of his secondary education (1984), but due to the difficulties of management, it often made losses. Zekelman did not stay with his father’s company and instead focused his attention on trying to attain a post-secondary education that would push him into more stable employment. However, soon after attending York University, his father unexpectedly passed away in 1986. Zekelman was forced to return to the family business to keep it afloat at only 19 years old.
After his father’s sudden death, Barry Zekelman began to run the family’s steel business with the help of his brother, Alan Zekelman, who was finishing a college course at the time. The loss of his father was a blow to the family but was also a blow to the business that had already been failing financially. With the help of senior employees helping new employees in a series of hires to develop difficult skills, Zekelman was able to turn the trajectory of the business around. He is credited for developing a strategy of buying low and selling high to turn the monthly $80,000 loss into a profit of $4,000 after a mere eight months. It was a small gain in the grand scheme of what is now Zekelman Industries but at the time provided hope to Zekelman that things were going in the right direction.
Assuming the role of CEO, Chairman and President of the small business, Zekelman continued to grow and expand its reach from an estimated $2 million in sales to a sales value of over $1.2 billion. He preferred the mechanical aspects of the business, believing the nature of machines to create optimized and time-efficient solutions a kind of perfection to strive
For nearly two decades, Zekelman remained focused on the expansion of Atlas Tube using the same strategy of growth through low-cost acquisitions. However, in 2006, Zekelman was approached by Carlyle Group, an American multinational private equity, alternative asset management and financial services corporation that already had $325 billion of assets within its
portfolio. They owned John Maneely Co (JMC Steel Group), another producing company, and suggested a $1.2 billion deal that would merge the two companies in exchange for increased strength in the
market. The deal was made, and in October the company was dubbed North America’s largest steel tubing manufacturer, boasting annual sales of $2 billion and an annual volume of more than 2 million tonnes.
In 2007, the Stephanie and Barry Zekelman Foundation was established. This non-profit would begin working throughout the years in various community initiatives.
Zekelman continued to work with the company as Chief Operating Officer (COO) within the Atlas branch of the corporation and eventually became CEO and president in 2008. By 2010 he was the Executive Chairman, and in 2011, Zekelman bought back his late father’s company, now named JMC Steel, with the help of the rest of his family in February of 2011. The business thus retained its private
status with Zekelman and his two brothers obtaining equal shares in the company.
In 2016, the three changed the name of the company to Zekelman Industries, the name that it now uses today, to cement the familial bond that they wanted the brand to exhibit. At this point, Zekelman also co-financed a Boston cancer research startup named CureMeta, a venture into biotechnology similar to the nonprofit work he would begin with the Barry and Stephanie Zekelman foundation in 2016.
Zekelman Industries continued to expand afterward. In 2017, the company acquired Western Tube & Conduit Corporation, which gave it a massive network of mills across the country. In particular, their Long Beach, California acquisition expanded their share of the electrical, fence and mechanical tubing market in North America. They also acquired American Tube, Birmingham, Alabama, to develop a stronger foothold in the hollow structure sections market in the American South.
In 2022, Zekelman Steel is now one of the largest steel pipe and tube manufacturers in North America. The business is co-run by Zekelman and his two brothers, Clayton and Alan. Together they own 100% of the firm worth $5 billion in revenues. They have multiple industry subsidiaries including Atlas Tube, a manufacturer that produced steel for stretches of the Trump-era Mexican-American border
wall. As of 2018, they employed 2300 individuals, had an annual sales rate of $2.6-2.7 billion, and shipped approximately 2.5 million tons of pipe and tube mill projects under brand names Atlas Tube, Picoma, Sharon Tube, Wheatland Tube, Z Modular and Western Tube & Conduit Corporation. The company continues to use only North American, steel, especially imported from the USA.
Over the past decades, Zekelman has donated millions of dollars through the Stephanie and Barry Zekelman foundation. In 2018, St. Clair College renamed its Business School the Zekelman School of Business and Information technology for its contributions to the
community. 2019, Zekelman and his wife raised over $500 000 to support Transition to Betterness and the Dr. Lisa Ventrella-Lucent Greenhouse project. Their philanthropy continues to this day with thousands given to various defined charities under Canadian law.
Zekelman is married and a father to two children.
According to Forbes, Barry Zekelman’s net worth is $3.3 billion as of July 2022.
Zekelman’s foundation was awarded the AFP Outstanding Philanthropic Foundation aware in 2010 for their charitable contributions. The charity was also honoured with the 2015 Believe Windsor Essex Award at the Windsor Essex Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence