Blackford Capital invests in Aqua-Leisure Industries

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The local private equity firm Blackford Capital invested in a water sport leisure and aquatic goods product developer, creating a new portfolio company platform in the process.

Grand Rapids-based Blackford Capital said Wednesday it invested in Avon, Massachusetts-based Aqua-Leisure Industries.

Founded in 1970, Aqua-Leisure primarily serves the aquatic consumer products industry. The company is a designer and distributor of multiple lines of 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.

The company’s management team will continue in their current roles.

“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.”

Blackford said it intends to help Aqua-Leisure seize opportunities to gain market share and capitalize on key industry trends that have accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic, including unprecedented consumer demand through e-commerce and online sales channels.

Martin Stein Courtesy Blackford Capital

“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 (to this new portfolio company platform) over the coming years.”

Grand Rapids-based Varnum served as legal adviser, Chicago-based Grant Thornton served as the financial and tax adviser, and Rush Street Capital in Chicago served as debt financing adviser to Blackford.

Grand Rapids-based Mercantile Bank provided debt financing, and New York-based Muzinich & Co. provided debt and equity financing in support of the transaction.

Aqua-Leisure was advised by Boston-based Tully & Holland and Jon Pratt, managing director at New York-based Duff & Phelps.

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