John Wundrock buys back WPC Brands

John Wundrock and business partner Jeff Potts, backed by investment dollars, have purchased WPC Brands -- not including Repel -- from United Industries, just six months after United acquired the company chiefly for its Repel brand. WPC Brands now consists of Atwater Carey first-aid kits, Potable Aqua water-purification tablets, Reflect sun-care products, and Baitmate fish attractants.
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John Wundrock and business partner Jeff Potts, backed by investment dollars, have purchased WPC Brands -- not including Repel -- from United Industries, just six months after United acquired the company chiefly for its Repel brand. WPC Brands now consists of Atwater Carey first-aid kits, Potable Aqua water-purification tablets, Reflect sun-care products, and Baitmate fish attractants. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The acquisition puts Wundrock, who has a 25-year history with the company, back in the saddle as the company's CEO and president. Potts, the financial wizard in the deal, now wears the titles of COO and CFO.

"I have a strong heritage with the brands, formulating a lot of them myself, and was very involved in building the brands and trade names, including Repel," Wundrock told SNEWS. "I also feel a strong sense of responsibility and commitment to the people of this company and knew that if we did not pull this deal off, United would have no idea what to do with the brands.

"I have a strong affinity for the outdoor industry and have many friends in it and am very pleased to be able to have the opportunity to commit to growing this company in an industry I love," he added.

This isn't the first time Wundrock has tried to buy WPC. Following the company going public in 1991, an opportunity arose to buy the company in 1995, but a group with deeper pockets than Wundrock won that round. Still, he never lost enthusiasm for WPC, working as a consultant with the company until its sale to United in December.

With the acquisition, Wundrock has ensured that the company will remain in Wisconsin and all but a few jobs -- those that represent duplications he tells us -- will remain.

Wundrock has his work cut out for him though, as much of WPC's brand-equity has become tarnished from neglect or lack of focus over the last several years.

"There is no question that there has been a lack of focus on the brands, other than Repel," Wundrock told us, "so our first task is to take a detailed look at the brands and their current positioning and find ways to leverage the equity in each to support and hopefully grow the market share of all the brands.

"We'll also be looking very hard for potential acquisitions that fit within the direction we are going," he added.

And this time, Wundrock has a bigger war chest. One of his investors is the State of Wisconsin Investment Board, which is charged with investing public funds for public workers.

"We are a very small player, but we received the attention of the Wisconsin Fund that looks for deals our size to get involved with," says Wundrock. "In making part of their commitment to us, they have made clear they would like to see the business grow and as we bring opportunities to their attention, they will consider doing the deal with us."

SNEWS View: Though Wundrock wouldn't say on the record, we do know that Phil Carey, Atwater Carey's founder, and he are friends. We also know that Phil has expressed more than just a passing interest at being involved once again with his brand. As good as Wundrock's energy and commitment might be, he will need the passion and knowledge for the first-aid marketplace that Carey possesses if he hopes to win back market share the once venerable first-aid kit company possessed. We applaud Wundrock for jumping back in and wresting control of "his" company from the hands of non-believers. Under United's control, all but the Repel brand was doomed. Now, there is hope at WPC and that's a good thing for the outdoor industry.

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