IndependentProcessor — October 2013
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Sheldon Lavin, Chairman And CEO Of OSI Group, LLC
Sheldon Lavin

Sheldon Lavin’s meat industry career could be defined by saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Lavin entered the industry more than 43 years ago as an “outsider” having had a successful career as an investor and executive in the banking industry and owning his own financial consulting firm . Since then, Lavin became Chairman and CEO of the OSI Group, LLC and has transformed the small, “McDonald’scentric” burger supplier into a worldwide supplier of food products to a variety of foodservice and retail brands. OSI Group, LLC includes OSI Industries, LLC and OSI International Foods, LLC in the U.S. and OSI International, Inc., which is the holding company for all of the OSI Group’s international investments.

OSI Group numbers nearly 20,000 employees globally, and Lavin is most proud of the employees and the corporate culture he has been able to filter down through the ranks of the company. “We have a culture at OSI that is rather unique - it’s very family-oriented, and we have a tremendous amount of longevity in our workforce. We have very little turnover and, to me, the people are the most important part of the business.”

Lavin’s path to meat industry success began in 1970 when he arranged financing for Otto & Sons, the predecessor company of OSI Industries, LLC. Otto & Sons had an opportunity to build a meat processing facility and become the Midwest supplier of hamburgers to McDonald’s Corporation but needed help to secure funding. Lavin was requested by the bank to have an ownership position in Otto & Sons, but he initially declined because it wasn’t what he did in his consulting practice. Lavin, however, did agree to act as a consultant and set the caveat with the Otto family that, if he ever did come in as a partner, his financial investment would be with the same degree of leverage as they had.

In 1975, Lavin was becoming substantially more involved as Otto & Sons began to look at overseas investments. He became a partner with the two sons as the father had retired from the business. In the late 1970s, McDonald’s asked that Lavin come into the business full time in order for OSI (now the new name of Otto & Sons) to continue to grow with McDonald’s. With a deep appreciation for the business culture and strategies employed by McDonald’s, Lavin agreed and joined the OSI Group full-time.

OSI Group continued its expansion throughout North America and Europe in the 1970s, and, in the 1980s, expanded into South America and Taiwan. In the early 1980s, Lavin gained half of the controlling interest in OSI Group aft er one of the original partners decided to sell out. The last remaining partner retired more than 13 years ago, and Lavin gained 100% voting control. “When I really took control in the 80s, I decided there was no reason for me to stay if I didn’t build OSI into something big. I might as well go back to finance.I wouldn’t have stayed if I couldn’t have grown it.”

Expansions into the Philippines, China, Australia, Japan, India and South Africa followed. This growth added to the substantial presence the OSI Group already had in Europe and Brazil.

Today, at age 81, Lavin is still actively pursuing further growth for the OSI Group with particular focus on Asia and Europe. “Expanding and diversifying the business was probably the single most exciting part,” he says. “I’m proud of the fact that we have circled the globe and that we’ve carried the OSI culture overseas, all the while, growing substantially our McDonald’s business to where we are, currently, the largest protein supplier in the world to the McDonald’s system.” Today, OSI has more than 55 facilities in 16 countries supporting McDonald’s and other customers around the globe.

Lavin is a contributor to and active in many charities including Ronald McDonald House Charities (for which he is Chairman of the current capital campaign), the Inner City Foundation of Chicago, Jewish United Fund and numerous other Jewish charities, Evans Scholarship Fund, Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago, Unite d Negro College Fund, Th e National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and many other national and local charities.

Lavin survived his wife of 55 years, with whom he raised three children, all of whom are married with children of their own He also very much considers the employees of OSI to be part of his global extended family.

Service/Awards

• Trustee for Ronald McDonald House Charities

• Board member of the Goodman Theatre

• Board member of Rush University Medical Center

• President and Director of The Sheba Foundation, a family charitable foundation

• Many awards received for his numerous business and non-profit activities
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