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If you have been keeping tabs on the latest fishing industry news over the past several months, you might have noticed a new, and somewhat peculiar trend beginning to emerge. For the second time in just three weeks, an industry giant has acquired stake in one of fishing’s most beloved brands.
It was recently announced that Sycamore Partners, the private equity firm that owns Pure Fishing, has taken part ownership in Rapala VMC Corporation. As if not intriguing enough, Rapala is fresh off the heels of purchasing Okuma, along with all of the company’s associated property rights, both foreign and domestic.
Prior to its investment in Rapala VMC, Pure Fishing already stood as one of the largest holders of market share within the fishing industry, worldwide. Some of the company’s most notable brands include Berkely, Shakespeare, Penn, Hardy, and Abu-Garcia.
As the industry’s largest bait, tackle, and reel manufacturers continue to swallow each other, one is left to ask, “why?” In large part, the answer to this question most likely lies in the core-curriculum of a long-forgotten middle school economics class from our pasts.
First, one should note that most purchases of this type come on behalf of private equity firms, or umbrella companies. These companies seek to assemble the most valuable portfolio of investments, in order to reap the greatest financial return. What better way to succeed at this goal than to own the vast majority of brands that consumers have come to love, respect, and trust?
During days of old, privately-held companies dominated the fishing industry, most of which specialized in the production of a single commodity (rods, reels, lures, etc.). Now, larger equity firms have tapped into the economic potential of these companies, purchasing numerous entities to diversify their portfolio. In essence, Wall-Street has made its way to a lake near you.
In many ways, what is being observed in the fishing industry is no different than store-front retail chains purchasing one another, in order to minimize competition and increase capital gain. It all goes back to the “if you can’t beat them, join them” mentality.
So what does this mean for your average angler? When companies merge, buy-out one another, or purchase select assets of another brand, individual product lines often get lost in translation. If the current trend continues, it is easy to speculate that many brands of the prior era will set sail into the sunset, as less profitable product lines are nixed in the continual pursuit of profitability. The extent to which this will take place is anyone’s guess.