Industry legend Lloyd Brinkman dies

HomeInside FCNewsIndustry legend Lloyd Brinkman dies

July 6/13; Volume 30/Number 2

By Ken Ryan

Kerrville, Texas—Flooring icon Lloyd “Brink” Brinkman, who helped create what was once the industry’s largest flooring distributor, LDBrinkman, died July 4 following a stroke at a summer home in Canada. Brinkman was 86.

Brinkman and Levon Ezell—both members of the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) Hall of Fame—founded LDBrinkman in 1960 as a distributor of Congoleum-Nairn products in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Through a series of mergers and acquisitions, notably joining forces with Giffen Industries in the late 1960s, Brinkman grew to become the industry’s largest wholesaler. At its peak, Brinkman operated in the Southwest, Southeast and West Coast—38 states in all—and generated annual revenue of $400 million.

Brinkman left the distributor in 1989 after the company was sold to a British firm.

Industry executives described him as a “larger than life” individual who was innovative, charismatic, ostentatious and philanthropic. An example is his $500,000 donation to help build a local hospital here.

Mike Klingele, president of Diamond W Floor Covering, City of Industry, Calif., joined LDBrinkman at age 23 and worked there for 28 years. “I remember him as a man who was like a movie figure,” Klingele told FCNews. “Here he was, 6-foot-6 with broad shoulders, wearing a 10-gallon cowboy hat and eel skin boots with a matching briefcase made out of ostrich. He had a cattle ranch in Kerrville and a horse ranch in Sisterdale, Texas.”

Klingele said Brinkman was cutting edge back in the day; many years before the Internet he created a computer system that linked all customers in a single database.

Brinkman is also credited with starting the “hub and spoke distribution system” that dominated the Southwest for decades. In this integrated logistics system, Dallas served as a hub where large amounts of inventory would be stored. Cities such as Austin, San Antonio, Tulsa and Houston were the spokes, from where products would be distributed to customers the next day through Brinkman’s elaborate trucking system in what was then a very rural market.

“He was an entrepreneur who was also kind of crazy—a swashbuckler,” Klingele said. “We had a meeting with a group of finance guys one time and they didn’t like the way Brink was running the company. He gets up, takes the company keys out of his pocket, throws it on the table and says, ‘Here, you run the company.’”

From 1978 to 2004, Jeff Sills, now executive vice president of sales for Shaw Industries’ hard surfaces division, worked for LDBrinkman, starting as a territory manager and rising through the ranks to become president. He left in 2004 to join Anderson Hardwood Floors. “Brink was a true visionary in the flooring business. He built a great company by assembling a great team of people, getting them to buy into his vision and then empowering them to do the job. We will all miss him greatly.”

Ed Williams, president of the residential business at Lexmark Carpet Mills and longtime Mohawk executive, shared a love of horses with Brinkman. “I knew him strictly from a personal standpoint since we both owned horses. I would describe him as a guy who cut a big swath—he was not only big in stature, he had a big presence in the room. You knew he was around.”

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