Local partners acquire Alpena HVAC and plumbing company

Max Friar. Courtesy Calder Capital

The managing partner and an adviser at Calder Capital partnered with two other investors to acquire Weinkauf Plumbing & Heating in Alpena.

Grand Rapids-based business broker Calder Capital said Tuesday, Oct. 12, it recently facilitated an unusual transaction — the buyer for a client the firm was advising on a sale walked away, and Calder’s Managing Partner Max Friar and Mergers & Acquisitions Adviser Matt Baas joined two other investors to acquire the firm, Alpena-based Weinkauf Plumbing & Heating.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Founded in 1959 by Walter and Theresa Weinkauf, Weinkauf Plumbing & Heating is a second-generation, family-owned plumbing and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) contractor in Alpena. Weinkauf’s factory-trained professionals provide plumbing services on any system for commercial, residential, industrial and institutional customers. They also sell and install furnaces, air conditioners, boilers, stoves, fireplaces, sinks, faucets, toilets and other HVAC systems.

Prior to the sale, the business was owned and operated by siblings Rob Weinkauf, Karen Lankheet, Alan Weinkauf and Steve Weinkauf. The four co-owners were approaching retirement age and wanted to ensure a successful transition for the business and its employees and customers. They engaged Calder Capital in 2020 to find a buyer. Calder and the company entered negotiations with a prospective buyer, but the individual dropped out of the transaction.

Matt Baas. Courtesy Calder Capital

Friar and Baas said Weinkauf was “a strong and stable investment opportunity” that appealed to them, but living four hours away from Alpena, they hesitated to buy the company without a qualified local operator. Once the initial buyer dropped out, Friar and Baas began looking for an Alpena-based individual with management-level construction experience to become a potential owner-operator. Baas found Luke Gerhart on LinkedIn, and Friar sent him a message. Gerhart said he would be interested in discussing the transaction.

“We had a very pleasant initial phone call with Luke,” Baas said. “The following week, Max and I drove up to Alpena and met Luke for breakfast. The vibes of the meeting were solid, and we proceeded down the path to acquire the business.”

Mark Zimmer, a construction project manager at Belmont-based Team Restoration and longtime friend of Friar’s, then became the fourth member of the investor group.

“Mark has helped us with numerous construction projects through his leadership at Team Restoration. We trust Mark and felt he would be a solid member of the group,” Friar said.

After the acquisition was completed on Aug. 31, Gerhart assumed a leadership role in the company.

“I am thrilled to continue what the Weinkauf family has built,” Gerhart said. “… Our group is committed to investing in the business, its employees and the community of Alpena.”

On behalf of Calder Capital, Baas served as the lead mergers and acquisitions adviser to the shareholders of Weinkauf Plumbing & Heating.

“This transaction was an interesting and rather remarkable ride,” he said. “… We were determined to find them a solid fit. It’s rare that you have four company owners and four investors consummating a transaction. There were a lot of moving parts, communication was key, and it was exciting to see the pieces fall into place.”

Dan White, of White, Wojda and Curtis, served as legal counsel for Weinkauf Plumbing & Heating. Andrew Longcore, of The Business Law Group, acted as legal adviser to the buyer group. Transaction financing was provided by Jeff Kleinschmidt and his team at Old National Bank.

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