Exxel Outdoors acquires American Rec, including Kelty, Sierra Designs

New owner plans to bring back some U.S. manufacturing for its newly acquired brands.
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Exxel Outdoors, known best for its U.S.-made sleeping bags, has acquired the American Recreation Products family of brands, including Kelty, Sierra Designs, Slumberjack, Ultimate Direction and Wenzel.

The deal will bring back some U.S. manufacturing for some the industry’s heritage brands, officials told SNEWS.

Private equity firm Sun Capital Partners, under its Kellwood Co. division, sold the Boulder, Colo.-based outdoor group to Exxel for an undisclosed amount. The brands will be added to the newly created Exxel Outdoors LLC, which will be headquartered in Boulder with Exxel’s Harry Kazazian as CEO and American Rec’s Brett Jordan as President. Exxel’s Armen Kouleyan will be chairman.

In addition to its new Boulder headquarters, Exxel will maintain its locations in California, Utah and Alabama, although there will be some shuffling of employees. Officials declined to release any individual staffing changes. The new company will employ about 287 people — 110 from Exxel and 177 from American Rec, pre-acquisition.

“There will be some displacement,” Kazazian said, “but ultimately, these moves will result in a net gain of jobs.”

For American Rec, the deal closes what was, at times, a bumpy ride under Sun Capital, which acquired American Rec’s parent Kellwood Co. in 2008. Shortly after the acquisition, officials focused on combining resources and staff across the brands for more efficiency. It also acquired women’s outdoor brand Isis in 2010. A few years later, the company began taking the opposite strategy, selling Isis and its Royal Robbins brand, rebooting Sierra Designs and separating brand leadership back to individual groups.

It was all part of weathering the economic recession, Jordan said, emphasizing that the brands will maintain their individual identities and management groups under Exxel.

“If I could have scripted the next chapter for American Rec, it couldn’t be any better, he told SNEWS. “We have a group of American heritage brands coupling with a leader in U.S. manufacturing.”

Kazazian predicted before the year’s end, Exxel would be making some of American Rec’s products in the United States. He also stressed a different leadership style than Sun Capital.

“I personally think differently than private equity,” he told SNEWS. “There’s much more forward thinking with me that isn’t necessarily always immediately focused on the bottom line. We’re going to make some big things happen.”

--David Clucas

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