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Complete List

Case studies are for illustrative purposes only and are not meant to be used for investment purposes or representative of future results.

Creative Learning Systems, LLC

Background

Creative Learning Systems (“CLS”) provides fully-integrated, turnkey science, technology, engineering, and math ("STEM") and media arts programs to help engage children through applied technology and project-based learning. The typical program consists of online curriculum, furnishings, hardware, software, education kits and manipulatives, training and professional development, assessment tools, and ongoing support and upgrade services. Customers include public and private K-12 schools. Founded in 1971, CLS has grown substantially in recent years. By 2016, the company's control shareholder/manager was seeking liquidity and a pathway to retirement. CLS characteristics included: (i) strong position in growing education segment; (ii) extended, consultative sales cycle; and (iii) opportunity to further develop recurring revenue stream.

Transaction & Post Closing

In February 2017, Brass Ring sponsored the recapitalization of CLS in a transaction that generated significant liquidity and for shareholders along with broader management ownership. The deal was completed in conjunction with existing management and an industry executive who invested and joined the board.

 

Classic Brands, LLC

Background

Denver, CO based Classic Brands, LLC (“Classic") is a designer, manufacturer and supplier of wild bird feeding products. The Company sells its products under owned brands to many of North America’s premier home improvement, hardware, pet and specialty retailers. Classic was founded in 2010 by industry executives including CEO Robert Donegan, to build a leading bird sector company. By 2015, the company had grown to a point that required additional capital to continue its strategy. The business was characterized by the following attributes:   (i) favorable sector demographics (birding is the second most popular outdoor activity in the US and an aging baby boomer population spends more time on sedentary activities); (ii) history of product innovation in a somewhat stale category; (iii) strong, experienced CEO with high personal commitment to the business and a track-record of success in the birding space; and (iv) solid platform operation to acquire competitors in a fragmented industry. 

Transaction & Post Closing

In June 2015, Brass Ring and a co-investor provided growth financing that will enable Classic to continue its strategy of product innovation and acquisition. Post transaction accomplishments include: (i) January 2016 acquisition of Hiatt Manufacturing which more than doubled the company size; (ii) July 2017 acquisition of Droll Yankees; (iii) recruitment of strong CFO; and (iv) divestiture of non-core garden decor accessories segment.

RIE Coatings, LLC

Background  

Established in 1987, RIE Coatings (“RIE”) and has grown to become an expert provider of environmentally friendly thin-film coating technologies. Operating from facilities in Eden Valley, MN and Oshkosh, WI, the company formulates and applies performance enhancing surface coatings to fasteners and OEM component parts used in various non-automotive markets. After several years of strong growth, by 2014 RIE ownership was seeking a transaction that would address differences amongst shareholders over future strategy. RIE was characterized by: (i) excellent reputation in a fast growing market segment; (ii) strong coatings formulation development capabilities; and (iii) the opportunity to implement best practices.

Transaction & Post Closing 

In January 2015, Brass Ring sponsored the recapitalization of RIE in a transaction that bought out certain shareholders and aligned management around a core strategy. The deal was completed in conjunction with a strong operating executive who joined the board to help support RIE’s growth strategy. Post-closing accomplishments include: (i) recruitment of a strong CFO; (ii) construction of a third facility, in Iowa; and (iii) conversion from a C-corpration to LLC structure.

DPIS Builder Services, LLC

Background

Established outside Houston, Texas in 1988 as a home inspection firm, DPIS Builder Services (“DPIS”) has grown to become a full-service engineering and inspection firm. As of 2014, DPIS had grown significantly to serving customers in four Texas regions, acting as a quality control arm for medium to large residential builders. The company’s founder was seeking a transaction that would provide liquidity and a venue to retirement for certain original management members along with career and ownership opportunities for next generation managers. DPIS characteristics included: (i) strong base of recurring revenues; (ii) operation in attractive/favorable geography; (iii) cyclical end markets; (iv) robust, proprietary IT systems; and (v) deep management team.

Transaction & Post Closing

In December 2014, Brass Ring sponsored the recapitalization of DPIS in a transaction that generated liquidity for the original management group along with ownership and increased responsibilities for next generation managers. The deal was completed in conjunction with a strong operating executive who joined the board to help support DPIS’ growth strategy. Post-closing accomplishment include: (i) recruitment of strong CEO and CFO; (ii) expansion into a new operating territory; and (iii) acquisition of energy testing firms, Cool Testing and Infrared Solutions.

Portu Sunberg, LLC

Background

Portu Sunberg (“PS”) was established in Minneapolis, MN in 1977 as a vendor-rep organization serving various product companies. Over the years, PS’s strategy evolved to offering a suite of services ranging from consumer research studies to packaging design to inventory sales tracking and analysis. PS now manages distribution for over 100 product companies ranging from emerging businesses to some of the world’s largest consumer packed goods companies. By 2012, the company’s second generation ownership was seeking liquidity and outside resources to continue the company’s growth and development. PS was characterized by: (i) deep relationships but high sales channel concentration with one large national retailer; (ii) strong and youthful management team; (iii) entrepreneur stage business practices and strong company culture; (iv) fragmented market with numerous acquisition opportunities.

Transaction & Post Closing

In December 2012, Brass Ring sponsored the recapitalization of PS in a transaction that generated significant liquidity and large ongoing ownership for management. The transaction was completed in roughly 6o days in advance of the 2013 tax law changes. Post-closing developments have included: (i) enhanced management team depth through the addition of strong CFO, controller and VP human resources; (ii) recruitment of outside board member with relevant experience; (iii) realignment and formalization of go to market strategy; (iv) highly successful penetration into food sector; (v) implementation of robust ERP system; and (vi) prepayment of subordinated debt.

Nationwide Learning, LLC

Background

Founded in Topeka, KS in 1994, Nationwide Learning (“Nationwide”) is the country’s largest publisher of student-authored books. The company provides book kits to over 10,000 elementary schools in all 50 states that classrooms use to create manuscripts which Nationwide then binds into hardbound books. Nationwide’s product is partially educational and partially keepsake for the families that purchase books. By 2010, Nationwide’s founder was seeking liquidity on his ownership and a pathway to retirement. Nationwide was characterized by: (i) widespread distribution into the attractive but hard to penetrate elementary school market; (ii) highly seasonal revenue stream; (iii) tight budgets and soft spending in the school market; (iv) entrepreneur stage business with family oriented culture and highly centralized decision-making. 

Transaction & Post Closing

In August 2010, Brass Ring sponsored the recapitalization of Nationwide in a transaction that provided the founder with significant liquidity and a strategy to retire. Post-closing accomplishments include: (i) recruitment of a young CEO who brought practical experience from a larger school market business; (ii) development of sophisticated data mining and testing strategies to optimize Nationwide’s go-to-market strategies along with large allocation of resources into the sales function; (iii) recruitment of outside board member with deep data mining expertise and contacts; (iv) development of an online product enabling classrooms to create books electronically; (v) forging outsourced production relationship to contend with high seasonality. In July 2015, Nationwide was recapitalized by C3 Capital.

Franklin Energy Services, LLC

Background

Founded in Port Washington, WI in 1994, Franklin Energy Services (“Franklin”) provides both utility and government sponsored energy efficiency program services to business and industry. By 2007, Franklin’s founder was seeking personal liquidity, ownership and career opportunities for management, and a limited confidential process with local buyers. Franklin characteristics included: (i) front-runner status with strong regional reputation in a rapidly growing industry; (ii) sales largely driven by legislative fiat; (iii) high level of customer concentration; (iv) entrepreneurial stage business practices with very strong culture; and (v) deep management team anxious to grow business.

Transaction & Post Closing

In November 2007, Brass Ring sponsored the recapitalization of Franklin in conjunction with the company’s founder and management. Working with an outside industry consultant, Brass Ring and management mapped out an analysis of industry opportunities which was paired with a highly targeted sales strategy. Other post-closing initiatives included: (i) implementing robust IT systems; (ii) deepening an already strong management team with a CFO and several other executives; (iii) recruitment of an experienced board member who had parallel growth experience; and (iv) relocation to new headquarters. The initiatives enabled Franklin to win a significant number of new contracts, dramatically expanding the company’s customer base, geographic scope of operations, and employment. In October 2010, Franklin was sold to private equity firm Cortec Group. The transaction provided significant liquidity and ongoing career opportunities for management.

IGC Technologies, LLC

Background

IGC Technologies (“IGC”) was established in Milwaukee, WI in 1982 by a classic “backyard tinkerer”. Selling a variety of industrial ingredients, IGC’s founder stumbled across a formulation that addressed an age old problem of veining defects endemic to the metal casting process. This formulation thus became the company’s main product. By 2005, IGC’s founder developed life threatening health issues that led him to seek liquidity in a process where he sought to avoid using an intermediary. At the time, IGC was characterized by: (i) high domestic market share in a niche segment of the foundry additives market; (ii) significant customer concentration as the domestic foundry industry consolidated (iii) modest growth rates as end markets remained tied to low growth segments like automotive; (iv) large supplier concentration reliant on one source; (v) an aggressive young president with international experience and a well-regarded chemist in place; (vi) entrepreneur stage business practices and stagnant new product development; and (vii) opportunity to expand sales internationally.

Transaction & Post Closing

In October 2006, Brass Ring sponsored the buyout of IGC in an all cash transaction that provided complete liquidity and retirement for the founder. The president gained the opportunity for significant ownership and was appointed CEO. Post-closing accomplishments included: (i) recruitment of a strong CFO and VP of Operations; (ii) consolidation of three operating facilities into one; (iii) realignment of resources and introduction of several next generation products; (iv) formalization of partnership with the world’s largest foundry supply company based in Germany, which led to significant international sales; (v) development of alternative supply sources for critical ingredients; and (vi) managing through the 2008/09 recession and concurrent increase in raw material costs which significantly impacted financial results. By 2011, Prince Minerals, one of IGC’s key new suppliers, expressed considerable interest in the company which ultimately led to IGC’s acquisition by Prince in October 2011. IGC’s CEO has since gone on to become a senior executive at Prince, managing numerous larger businesses.

American Finishing Resources, LLC

Background

Founded in Chilton, WI in 1983, American Finishing Resources (“AFR”) provides paint and powder coating removal services as well as fixture fabrication to a broad array of Midwest based manufacturers. By 2006, the two founding owner-manager siblings were seeking liquidity on their AFR ownership as a means to address strategic differences. AFR characteristics included: (i) high market share in an environmentally sensitive niche industry segment; (ii) strong recurring revenues with route based operation; (iii) flat to declining revenue trends; (iv) idled five year old Shelbyville, IN plant; (v) scaled back management team; and (vi) several identified acquisition opportunities.

Transaction & Post Closing

In July 2006, Brass Ring sponsored the buyout of AFR in an all cash transaction that provided liquidity to ownership and investment opportunities for management. Post-closing accomplishments included: (i) recruiting a strong CEO who also purchased equity; (ii) reopened the idled Indiana facility; (iii) acquired a small competitor; (iv) developed an interchangeable material handling cart which solved a problem of limited use carts in manufacturing settings; (v) expanded employment and revitalized sales efforts; and (vi) significantly expanded the customer base and rebuilt reputation with former customers. After an 8 year ownership and having achieved the initial strategic goals, Brass Ring exited AFR through a sale to DuBois Chemicals in October 2014. The transaction provided significant liquidity to management and ongoing managerial roles.

Infinity Precision, LLC

Background

Infinity Precision Systems (“Infinity”) was founded in 2002 by several engineers who had previously worked together in another setting. The company specialized in automated precision wet process and drying equipment for clients making high-value components in primarily technology industries. By 2005, the company was seeking an outside partner to provide liquidity to angel investors and management, as well as access to resources for growth. At the time, Infinity was characterized by: (i) large customer concentration in the computer disk drive sector and significant international sales; (ii) lumpy revenue stream owing to volatile end markets and capital goods based nature of business; (iii) young, aggressive CEO and deep roster of engineers; and (iii) flexible, outsourced production model that kept overhead low.

Transaction & Post Closing

In August 2005, Brass Ring and two other private equity firms sponsored the recapitalization of Infinity. Closed in 45 days, the transaction provided complete liquidity for angel investors and partial liquidity for the CEO as well as movement to a part time management role. Other key employees also gained the opportunity become investors in the company. Post-closing accomplishments included: (i) development of significant sales into the solar market; (ii) recruitment of outside board member; and (iii) development of IT infrastructure. In December 2009, Infinity was sold back to its CEO founder.