Tunturi parent Accell buys Wynne in Canada

Moving to strengthen its position in the North American market, the Accell Group of The Netherlands has bought Canada's Wynne International in a deal sealed April 4. Accell is the parent of the Tunturi brand, which Wynne had been distributing in Canada and the United States along with its own brand, Wynne, plus Monark and Bodycraft. Also coming to North America will be the BS&T boxing brand
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Moving to strengthen its position in the North American market, the Accell Group of The Netherlands has bought Canada's Wynne International in a deal sealed April 4. Accell is the parent of the Tunturi brand, which Wynne had been distributing in Canada and the United States along with its own brand, Wynne, plus Monark and Bodycraft. Also coming to North America will be the BS&T boxing brand

The company is now Accell Fitness North America. Other than to say that only Wynne's assets were purchased, financial terms were not disclosed.

"Everybody here is very excited," David Neziol, now Accell Fitness NA vice president of sales, told SNEWS®, only hours after his return from working out details in Europe. "This is a bright new future for us."

Wynne founder and CEO John Tummon is no longer with the company he began two decades ago. His partner and president in the last four years, Ted McKechnie, has also departed. Former CFO Alison Power has taken on the CEO role, while president will be Martijn Nelissen, who is based in The Netherlands as head of the Accell Fitness division worldwide.

Neziol said he couldn't confirm or deny rumors, which had heated up since late March, that Wynne owners were having financial and personal difficulties and wanted out, either via liquidation or a sale. He did confirm that Wynne had been having financial problems.

"There has been a lot of speculation certainly," he said, adding only that "the receivership was due to under-funding."

Retailers in the last three weeks had stopped receiving product, several told SNEWS®, and had been told last week that shipments would begin again in early April. An email to some retailers at the end of March from Wynne also stated that Wynne was being sold to the Accell Group, with product like that shown at the ispo show in Munich, Germany, in early February, being shipped soon.

Accell Fitness NA will immediately discontinue the Wynne brand. It will beef up the Tunturi brand, which the Accell Group acquired in 2003, and it will introduce to North America as its mid-value line the Germany-based brand Bremshey, which it acquired the rights to in 2004 when Bremshey (www.bremshey.de) declared bankruptcy.

As it has grown strongly in Europe, Accell plans growth across North American with this step.

"Certainly Wynne had a bigger presence in Canada than in the United States," Neziol said. "With the Bremshey line and the new Tunturi product, we are looking at being more competitive in the North American market.

"Our intention is to be more customer service-oriented to the specialty fitness dealers and to convince them that our products are unique and our alternatives to what they carry," he added.  

Details about which products, when, what dealers and other information will be worked out in the next few days and few weeks, he said, calling this "all so new."

"When one stops one company on a Friday and starts another on a Monday, there is a lot of ground to be covered," he said.

He did note the Accell Fitness NA would continue to distribute the Bodycraft strength line in Canada, but would discontinue distributing the Monark product. It would also add the Bremshey boxing line called BS&T. In addition, product delivery should be quicker, he said.

"With us being owned by Tunturi now," Neziol said, "things will speed up for us."

One retailer, Fitness Headquarters in Texas, said it has been moving the current Tunturi product in anticipation of newer ones.

"They say that product will be available in greater quantities than it was previously, and, the products coming down the pipeline would be greatly improved," said Vice President Ilan Katz of Fitness HQ. "They sent me a binder full of new products from Tunturi, incorporating design and color changes. They do look good."

The Accell Group (ACCEL) is traded on Amsterdam's Euronext exchange (www.euronext.com), where its price on Monday jumped from 18.5 to 18.65 at market close. Its price has climbed 75.86 percent in the previous 52 weeks. Accell Group (www.accell-group.com) also designs, produces and markets bicycles and bicycle accessories. According to a company description on Euronext, worldwide its breakdown of sales per area is: Netherlands (49 percent), Germany (27 percent), France (14 percent), the rest of Europe (8 percent), and the rest of world (2 percent). Its earnings per share for the fiscal year ended Dec. 31, 2004, were up 38 percent, with a net profit of Euro 13 million (approximately USD $16.7 million in current currency values), up 42 percent over 2003's Euro 9.2 million (approximately USD $11.9 million). Sales growth was 18 percent, year over year, with organic growth at 7 percent. A company statement in February said the growth was due partly to "consumers' continuing interest in healthier lifestyles and active recreation."

SNEWS® View: Tunturi had one of the larger and flashier booths in the fitness area at the ispo show in Germany in February, showcasing sleek designs with a Scandinavian influence. Perhaps with the power it has established in Europe, Accell can manage to let Tunturi reclaim the position it had in the fitness industry 12 to 16 years ago as a prime supplier with sizeable sales and broad recognition. The Health & Fitness Business show in Denver in August will be the official, public coming-out party for the new company and its brands and new products, although judgment on how it is doing will likely need to be reserved, waiting for post-show retailer reaction and acceptance and fourth-quarter 2005 sales. Nevertheless, the former Wynne group in Ontario seems energized, and enthusiasm means a lot to success.

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