WESCO Distribution, Inc., Pittsburgh, Pa., is in talks with a potential suitor to sell a majority stake in Fife Electric Co., Novi, Mich., and to make it a minority-owned business. WESCO would retain a minority interest.

Fife's new controlling owner would be a minority distributor from the Detroit area. Sources at WESCO and Fife declined to name the company before the deal is finalized, which could happen within the next month.

The proposed sale is part of an initiative to boost involvement by minority-owned businesses and to help WESCO's customers meet their targets for purchasing from minority-owned firms, said Roy Haley, president of WESCO. "I have routinely asked (customers) what one or two things we could do to assist them in meeting their own internal objectives," he said. Many said help finding a "highly professional way to source from full-fledged, legitimate, minority-owned businesses" would help, Haley said.

The deal will be reviewed by the Michigan Minority Business Development Council (MMBDC), a private non-profit organization that promotes minority business enterprises. "The MMBDC has very defined rules and requirements for being a fully certified minority distributor; we've got to meet all of those tests," said Haley. "We've already had a fair amount of legal work done in anticipation of that."

The Fife management team is closely involved and supportive of the sale, said Dale Ritchie, sales manager for Fife Electric, which WESCO acquired in1995. WESCO has made minority business issues a focal point over the past couple of years. The company hosts seminars on the subject, distributes a special catalog highlighting the work of minority businesses and has a mentoring program focused on minority issues.