Aqua-Leisure acquires Airhead Sports Group

Courtesy Blackford Capital

A Blackford Capital portfolio company is expanding with the acquisition of a maker of marine towable watersports and winter leisure activity products.

Avon-Massachusetts-based Aqua-Leisure Recreation recently acquired Denver-based Airhead Sports Group, Blackford Capital said on Monday, Dec. 6.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The new company’s enhanced global footprint, combined with expanded sourcing and distribution capabilities and increased manufacturing, as well as product development and research and development expertise, will enhance Aqua-Leisure’s growth trajectory and deliver new opportunities to serve its retail customers and position the company for growth in additional omni-channel retailers and wholesale distributors, according to Aqua-Leisure.

“The Airhead family of brands is a natural fit for the Aqua-Leisure portfolio,” said Steve Berenson, CEO, Aqua-Leisure. “Our combined product offerings will be able to satisfy greater consumer demand for a wider range of outdoor recreational activities. We are big believers in empowering consumers to experience all the fun that can be had outdoors, and we’re excited to move forward under my direction with this next phase of growth and innovation with the Airhead team.”

This is the first add-on acquisition for Aqua-Leisure since Blackford Capital acquired the company in January 2021. Under Blackford’s ownership, Aqua-Leisure has experienced growth in revenue and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.

“This acquisition is a significant step in Blackford’s growth strategy for Aqua-Leisure,” said Martin Stein, founder and managing director of Blackford Capital. “Bringing these two companies together creates an extremely strong portfolio across watersports, marine, and pool and float categories, allowing us to drive new growth and long-term profitability.”

Founded in 1991, Airhead Sports Group manufactures outdoor, marine, watersports and winter leisure products under the brand names Airhead, Sportsstuff and Yukon Charlie’s. The addition of Airhead’s portfolio of products for the year-round and seasonal outdoor recreation enthusiast will present cross-selling opportunities, and the increased volume created by the acquisition will result in greater opportunities in sourcing and purchasing power, Airhead Sports Group said. Airhead products are distributed in 60-plus countries through six core channels.

“For more than 30 years, Airhead Sports Group has designed and distributed the finest watersports and winter leisure products available,” said Leland Nichols, president and CEO of Airhead Sports Group. “As part of the Aqua-Leisure portfolio, we will realize both growth and scale synergies. And by optimizing these complementary capabilities, we will continue to exceed customer and consumer expectations for product quality, innovation and successful on-time-delivery as we actively improve our competitive positioning within the watersports and winter leisure categories for years to come.”

The leadership team at Airhead will remain intact following the transaction close. Nichols will become COO of the combined group, reporting to Berenson, with responsibilities for operations of the consolidated business and corporate integration.

Houlihan Lokey served as exclusive financial adviser, and White & Case served as legal adviser to Airhead.

Varnum served as legal adviser, and Grant Thornton served as the financial and tax adviser to Blackford.

Key Bank provided debt financing, and Muzinich & Co. and Capital Dynamics provided debt and equity financing in support of the transaction.

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