Isis for Women acquired by American Recreation Products

After only a few months of being shopped, Isis for Women has a new owner – American Recreation Products. SNEWS goes beyond the news release with inside details and an interview with Carolyn Cooke.
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After only a few months of being shopped, Isis for Women has a new owner -- American Recreation Products. The sale of Isis, which closed Jan. 7, 2010, comes only a few months after one of the co-founders, Poppy Gall, exited the business (click here to read a Oct. 30, 2009, SNEWS® story “Changing of the guard at Isis for Women”).

That left the other co-founder Carolyn Cooke as a minority investor along with Ironwood Capital of Boston and Coastal Enterprises of Maine. However, Cooke told us that both Ironwood, which invested in Isis in 2007, and Coastal, which put money into the company in 2002, were unwilling to invest further in the face of the current economic climate.

Insiders familiar with the deal told us that from the time Isis (www.isisforwomen.com) was being shopped to prospective buyers to the time American Rec closed on the deal -- about a couple of months -- was nothing short of amazing. American Rec (www.americanrecreational.com) is part of the Kellwood Company, an affiliate of Sun Capital Partners, a private equity firm.

Cooke will remain as president of the company, although now simply in the role as an employee without any ownership. Noting that the company has come such a long way from when she and Gall launched in 1998 as the only two employees -- with just 20 styles as a winter-only line -- Cooke told SNEWS she’s proud of all her team (now 16 strong) has accomplished and she’s looking forward to the future.

“We will stay based in Vermont and everyone at the company will be staying,” Cooke told SNEWS. “Nothing will really change for us in terms of the quality of our company or our product, but now we will be able to support our retailers much more with marketing, product development and product line expansion into places that are relevant to passionate outdoor women consumers.”

In a letter to dealers shared with SNEWS that went out Jan. 8, Cooke stated, “This acquisition provides ISIS with a stronger platform to market, support and fulfill the ISIS brand throughout North America. We strongly believe that this partnership will strengthen our ability to deliver for our customers. With Kellwood and ARP’s operational excellence, the Isis team can continue to focus on great design and our core values of growing the community of women who are inspired to live an active life.”

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

However, insiders familiar with the deal told us that Isis, while relatively small in size (under $10 million), was attractive to a variety of companies because it has a very passionate consumer base, a loyal dealer base, and strong management team and employees. And that translates into a potentially strong upside.

Isis now becomes part of a family of independent brands that include Royal Robbins, Kelty and Sierra Designs.

--Michael Hodgson

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