A New Capital Infusion Into The Firearms Industry

Yesterday, Jim Shepherd at The Outdoor Wire mentioned that Savage Arms had just had an infusion of equity capital from Norwest Equity Partners on Tuesday of this week.

From the Norwest Equity Partners news release:

Erik Torgerson, a NEP partner and senior advisor, stated, “Savage is an industry leading, best-in-class company. Our investment will help advance global market expansion and the continued development of an innovative, diversified products platform. The Company operates within a fragmented industry, and there is significant opportunity for consolidation through add-on acquisitions in both existing and adjacent market categories. Under the leadership of Ron Coburn and his accomplished management team, Savage is well-positioned to continue to expand and exceed its growth objectives.” Torgerson and Tim DeVries, a NEP managing general partner, have joined the Savage board of directors.

Coburn stated, “This new investment partnership with NEP marks an exciting time for Savage. On behalf of our management team and employees, we look forward to working with the NEP team, exploring new business opportunities and advancing our business potential together.”

I agree with Jim’s interpretation of this where he say it means “we have money and there are companies out there that would be good fits, so we may go shopping.” He also notes that other deals and consolidations in the firearms industry may be coming over the next few weeks.

A little history about Norwest Equity Partners and their past investments will show just how significant this investment is for the firearms industry. NEP is an offshoot from Minneapolis-based Northwest Bancorporation that was started in 1961. They originally specialized in Minnesota companies but have since broadened their geographic reach. Their specialty is working with companies to bring them to that next level. Among the companies that they have made equity investments in over the years are Cray Research (supercomputers), Gymboree (kid’s clothing ), Dairy Queen (fast food), and PeopleSoft (software). These are all now big-name companies.

In 1998, Norwest Bancorporation merged with Wells Fargo Bank. While the name going forward was Wells Fargo, in reality Norwest bought Wells Fargo and then took their name. This is the same thing that NationsBank (formerly North Carolina National Bank) did when they merged with Bank of America. The combined Wells Fargo which has now added Wachovia into the mix is the fourth largest bank in the United States according to the Federal Reserve.

With this sort of money and expertise behind Savage Sports Corporation, I think we are now seeing a well-funded competitor to Cerberus’s Freedom Group. Both Savage and Freedom Group are strong on rifles but weak on handguns. I anticipate seeing one or more of the handgun manufacturers being bought by one or the other of these companies. Indeed, one of the rumors I remember reading coming out of the 2012 SHOT Show had Freedom Group buying Para-USA. I don’t know the truth of it but it makes sense given that both are headquartered in North Carolina and are about a two hour drive apart in location.

This will be interesting to watch over the next few months.