Pending merger triggers changes at Mountainsmith

A pending merger between Pacifica and Blackstone Investment Group has triggered changes at Mountainsmith, the first of which was made public earlier this week when Geoff O'Keeffe, president of Mountainsmith, announced his immediate resignation to pursue other projects.
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A pending merger between Pacifica and Blackstone Investment Group has triggered changes at Mountainsmith, the first of which was made public earlier this week.

Geoff O'Keeffe, president of Mountainsmith, sent out an email to his rep force that was shared with SNEWS® at the close of business on Dec. 12. In it, he announced his immediate resignation as president “to pursue new and challenging projects."

Upon contacting Greg Thomsen, CEO of Pacifica, the holding company for Mountainsmith and other companies, SNEWS® also learned that Gareth Richards, vice president of sales, tendered his resignation as well, effective Dec. 31.

Thomsen told us the two positions would not be replaced and that "their responsibilities will be divided between the remaining managers of the combined businesses. Change is never easy but we are focused on building a strong and effective team over the long haul.

SNEWS® learned of the possible sale of Pacifica several months ago, though the merger with Blackstone added a unique twist.

Pacifica is the parent company of Mountainsmith, 105 Meridien, Youngstown Equipment, and Detours. Blackstone Investment Group owns Carry Gear, which it acquired in 2003 from PMI (Pacific Market Inc.). Carry Gear (www.carrygearsolutions.com), like 105 Meridien, specializes in OEM construction for major industry brands.

Though not yet final, the deal, which is expected to close Dec. 22, involves Blackstone purchasing 100 percent of the assets of Pacifica, and as a result, buying out Thomsen's two partners, Rick Merrill, who was president and CEO of Youngstown, and Steve Leonard. In turn, Thomsen will acquire a portion of the combined Blackstone/Pacifica company and will remain responsible for the overall management of the current Pacifica brands as a member of the Blackstone management team.

As to why Pacifica is selling, Thomsen told SNEWS® that after considering numerous offers, triggered as a result of his partner, Merrill, wanting to sell his interest and focus on real estate, Blackstone became clearly the best of all worlds.

"The best arrangement in my mind is the one we are working now to finalize, with Dave Henderson and Blackstone Investments. We began our initial discussion almost three years ago. They own similar businesses that we felt we would both benefit by combining our strengths. Renee Petre, the president of Blackstone’s Carry Gear, has been a friend of mine for almost 15 years,” explained Thomsen.

"Her company was acquired three or four years ago by Blackstone and she was very supportive and reassuring that the Blackstone Group was a very smart, thoughtful and a caring company, that had the best long term interest in the companies and all the people involved. This is now my belief also."

Added Thomsen, "This deal is extremely straight forward. There are no surprises or ulterior motives. The main result will be that the companies will be merged into a much stronger company with twice the revenues and infrastructure. My two partners will be bought out so that they can focus on their other activities. And we can focus on continuing to build our brands."

In his email to the Mountainsmith sales force, O'Keeffe stated, "I think we all can look at the recent growth and changes at Mountainsmith and feel a sense of, if not total completion, a certain and irrefutable pride in accomplishment. Since 2004, we’ve elevated our top line over 40 percent, expanded the specialty dealer base by a net of nearly two hundred accounts, gotten a serious start on a credible international business, remedied some of the operational roadblocks we faced, done a lot with a little, marketing-wise, and this year we are putting to bed a P&L to be very proud of.

“I want to thank all of you for your enormous contributions toward these achievements. You folks did this, and what part the Golden (Colo.) team played was only possible as a result of the faith you had in us."

When contacted at his home, O'Keeffe told us he's looking forward to a holiday season at home and on his skis, and then he'll begin thinking about future possibilities.

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