Blackford Capital Announces Investment in Aqua-Leisure Industries
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., Jan. 13, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Blackford Capital, a private equity firm based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, today announced an investment in Aqua-Leisure Industries, a leader and pioneer in water sport leisure product development and aquatic goods.
Headquartered just outside of Boston, Aqua-Leisure was founded in 1970 and primarily serves the aquatic consumer products industry. The company is one of the largest and most innovative designers and distributors of multiple lines of high quality, performance-based products under a variety of brand names and proprietary designs, including swim goggles, “Learn to Swim” products for children, and pool floats, among other categories.
“Aqua-Leisure has appealed to premier sporting goods and value channel consumers throughout our 50-year history. Our organization’s overall approach to market assessment, product design, supply chain logistics and product positioning, whether through brick and mortar or e-commerce channels, has consistently delivered robust performance,” said Steve Berenson, CEO of Aqua-Leisure. “We serve some of the largest and most demanding customers in the world. We are excited about our partnership with Blackford Capital as it will create accelerated growth opportunities through expansion of current relationships and product lines as well as evolving new categories and sales channels.”
Aqua-Leisure’s execution and growth through the COVID-19 crisis significantly enhanced its credibility with key existing and prospective customers. Blackford intends to help Aqua-Leisure seize these opportunities to gain market share and capitalize on key industry trends, including unprecedented consumer demand through e-commerce and online sales channels. The company’s management team will continue in their current roles.
“We are thrilled to add Aqua-Leisure to our portfolio as another diversified consumer products business with a vision for continued evolution,” said Martin Stein, founder and managing director of Blackford Capital. “The company has impressive and decades-long relationships with excellent customers, which have strengthened recently as Aqua-Leisure’s products have experienced tremendous consumer demand for backyard use and ‘staycations’ driven by the uncertainty brought about by the pandemic. Throughout this period, Aqua-Leisure has proven itself to be an incredibly reliable partner and supplier. We are excited to partner with Steve Berenson and the rest of the Aqua-Leisure management team to promote organic growth, pursue new distribution opportunities, and execute meaningful add-on acquisitions over the coming years.”
Varnum LLP served as legal advisor, Grant Thornton served as the financial and tax advisor, and Rush Street served as debt financing advisor to Blackford. Mercantile Bank provided debt financing and Muzinich & Co. provided debt and equity financing in support of the transaction.
Aqua-Leisure was advised by Tully & Holland and Jon Pratt, Managing Director at Duff & Phelps.
About Blackford Capital
Founded in 2010, Blackford Capital is a private equity investment firm headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Blackford Capital makes majority control investments in founder and family-owned, lower middle-market manufacturing, industrials, and distribution. Currently, Blackford Capital has eleven portfolio companies. Blackford and their team members have received a number of recognitions over the past several years, including M&A Adviser Private Equity Firm of the year, Corp. Magazine Small Company of the Year (Michigan), GR Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year (West Michigan), numerous recognitions on the Inc. 5000 fastest growing private companies list and M&A Adviser Private Equity Professional of the Year (Martin Stein). For more information, visit blackfordcapital.com.
About Aqua-Leisure Industries
Founded in 1970, Aqua-Leisure is dedicated to designing, developing, manufacturing, and marketing performance, recreational, and relaxation orientated products within the water sport and leisure-time categories. Aqua-Leisure is proud to support family, friends, and recreational activities that bring people together through everyday fun, providing a strong foundation for success and growth. Aqua-Leisure is focused on consistently delivering proprietary designs, high product quality, dependable supply chain logistics, and value-add to both customers and end-consumers. For more information, visit aqualeisure.com.
About Mercantile Bank
Mercantile Bank is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mercantile Bank Corporation. Mercantile Bank provides banking services to businesses, individuals and governmental units, and differentiates itself on the basis of service quality and the expertise of its banking staff. Mercantile Bank has assets of approximately $4.4 billion and operates 39 banking offices.
About Muzinich & Co.
Muzinich BDC, Inc. is a direct investment fund focused on providing senior debt, mezzanine debt, and equity co-investment capital to growing lower middle market companies backed by families, founders, and/or private equity firms. It is part of Muzinich & Co., a privately owned, institutionally focused investment firm specializing in public and private corporate credit with $37.6 billion of AUM as of September 30, 2020. The firm was founded in New York in 1988 and has offices in London, Frankfurt, Madrid, Manchester, Milan, Paris, Singapore, Zurich and Dublin.
About Varnum LLP
Varnum is a leading Michigan law firm providing a broad range of legal services to meet the complex needs of its clients. With more than 180 attorneys in nine offices, Varnum serves as counsel to growing businesses and institutions throughout Michigan, the Midwest and Florida. Varnum’s web site address is www.varnumlaw.com.
About Grant Thornton
Founded in Chicago in 1924, Grant Thornton LLP (Grant Thornton) is the U.S. member firm of Grant Thornton International Ltd, one of the world’s leading organizations of independent audit, tax and advisory firms. Grant Thornton, which has revenues of $1.92 billion and operates more than 50 offices, works with a broad range of dynamic publicly and privately held companies, government agencies, financial institutions, and civic and religious organizations.
About Rush Street
Based in Chicago, Illinois, Rush Street Capital provides debt and equity capital markets, mergers and acquisition, financial restructuring, and valuation services to world-class, industry-leading companies. With extensive investment and commercial banking experience, Rush Street has developed significant industry expertise, deep relationships, and a keen understanding of how to address a company’s corporate finance and investment banking needs. Our clients include private equity firms, private business owners, and some of the largest corporations in the United States. ( www.rushstreetcapital.com )
Lambert & Co.
SOURCE Blackford Capital