As we begin 2022, this is a perfect time to look back and reflect on all we achieved in what was, by any measure, a challenging year.
Despite these challenges… and, yes, some disappointments, 2021 threw at us, Blackford Capital had one of our best years in terms of finalizing deals and expanding equity opportunities for value growth.
During 2021, we reviewed more than 2,500 deals, completed six transactions, and are currently operating 10 portfolio companies in three countries. We have more than 300 investors and raised $50 million in equity capital in 2021.
Before going further… this would be an opportune time to thank all Blackford Capital and platform company associates. Their commitment and dedication to performing at peak while at the same time prioritizing the safety and health of those surrounding them… we express our profound respect and appreciation.
Here are just a few highlights of the key activities that made 2021 one of Blackford’s best ever!
Blackford Capital is Focused on Growth, Profitability and Increased Platform Company Value
During 2021, Blackford added one portfolio company to our roster and significantly expanded two of our existing companies, better positioning them for growth and profitability.
In January, we completed a deal for majority investment in Aqua-Leisure, a leader and industry pioneer in high quality consumer water sport products such as pool floats and goggles. Aqua is an exciting addition to the Blackford portfolio – the company has tremendous opportunity and a strong reputation in a growing market. Post-acquisition, we deployed a strategic operational and managerial strategy to accelerate company performance, including the recruitment and organization of a talented Board of Directors. And the strategy is encouraging… Aqua’s sales and profits have increased, its debt has been lowered, and 25% of its sourcing has been shifted to other countries in Asia.
To further advance Aqua’s growth, during December 2021 we completed the add-on acquisition of Airhead Sports Group, the #1 brand in the marine towable watersports and winter leisure activity product categories. This deal makes Aqua-Leisure the premier market leader within the aquatics consumer products industry and will significantly enhance the company’s already positive growth trajectory.
During March 2021, Blackford portfolio company Vertically Integrated Projects merged with Boston Trade Interior Solutions (BTIS), kicking off a year of recovery and growth in the hospitality industry. The new company, which retained the BTIS name, created an industry powerhouse with more than 80 years of experience in the fixtures, furnishings, and equipment (FF&E) in the hospitality space.
The company continued its growth throughout 2021, acquiring two additional companies that further expanded its footprint and added capabilities in its commercial design and hospitality portfolio. The acquisitions of Georgia-based Design Environments Corporation and North Carolina-based ID Collaborative established the company’s presence in the southeast US and broadens service offerings in the collegiate housing, senior living/continuing care retirement communities, health care, multifamily, corporate and hospitality sectors.
Finally, we completed a deal in March that brought mortuary supply industry leader Mortech Manufacturing into the Blackford portfolio.
Successful & Award-Winning
Blackford’s successful 2021 performance has resulted in recognition from leaders in our industry and community.
In November 2021, Blackford was named Private Equity Firm of the Year at the 20th Annual M&A Advisor Awards. We were chosen for the award from a field of 16 other highly successful private equity firms, which makes the honor even more meaningful. We also won the award in 2018, and it is a tremendous feeling to be selected as a repeat winner.
We were also recognized by The M&A Advisor for our acquisition of Aqua-Leisure, which was named PE Deal of the Year in the $50MM – $75MM category.
Prior to the year ended, Blackford Founder and Managing Director Martin Stein was named a NewsMaker of the Year finalist in the Finance category by the Grand Rapids Business Journal.
Industry Thought Leaders
Throughout the year, we also continued to establish ourselves as private equity thought leaders, sharing our knowledge and experience in a variety of ways.
One major highlight was a webinar we hosted alongside the Association for Corporate Growth Western Michigan in December. More than 125 attendees participated in this virtual event in which we spoke with sourcing and supply chain and international sourcing experts. If you were not able to attend, please review the webinar recording here.
Outlook for 2022
We may only be two months into 2022, however our Blackford Capital team and platform company organizations are working hard to ensure the momentum from 2021 continues. We are actively reviewing deals and strategizing for innovative new ways to help our companies grow and thrive in the new year.
Once again, thank you for your continued support of Blackford Capital, and here’s to a 2022 filled with health, happiness and hypergrowth for all!
Martin Stein is the Founder and Managing Director of Blackford Capital. With more than 18 years of private equity experience, Martin leads the firm’s acquisition sourcing activities and has served on the boards of 15 of the firm’s platform portfolio companies. Additionally, he has served as the Chairman of the board for 9 of the firm’s platform investments.