By Thomas J. Ryan

Badger Sportswear, a family-owned supplier of team uniforms, performance athletic wear and fanwear, has become the latest “best-in-class” sporting goods platform to find a buyer.

The purchaser was CCMP Capital Advisors LP. With offices in New York, Houston and London, the company specializes in middle-market buyouts and growth equity investments of $100 million to $500 million in the consumer, industrial and health industries in North America and Europe. In the active-lifestyle space the company also owns Pure Gym and Shoes for Crews.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

The sale comes as a string of companies in the sports and outdoor space continue to attract interest from venture capital firms as well as strategic buyers.

In an interview, Joseph Pellegrini, managing director at Robert W. Baird, which is serving as financial advisor to Badger, said that strong interest is partly due to healthy industry fundamentals and emergence of differentiated business models combining world-class product and customer services. Beyond broad interest in team sports, health and wellness, it also includes more female participation in sports over the years and the proliferation of sub-segments of different sports, such as tackle, touch and flag in football.

But Pellegrini believes rising expectations around equipment and softgoods is giving the industry another premium.

“In years past, athletes just wore a cotton t-shirt,” said Pellegrini. “Today, parents and the kids are demanding not only moisture-wicking, anti-microbial and other performance features but they want comfort and style. Kids know the difference and so do their parents. And they’re paying up for it.”

On the other hand, many healthy fundamentals being earned by Badger Sportswear, as well as some other deals Baird has worked on, including Augusta Sports, Implus and 5.11 Tactical, are because many of the leading firms in niche categories have become “very sophisticated” in how they operate their businesses.

The sophistication has come in part from investments in hires outside the industry to enhance marketing, improve supply chain capabilities to react faster to market and upgrade customer service. Added Pellegrini, “They’ve taken best practices, including sophisticated fabrics, production, IT systems and technology, and applied them across multiple sub-categories of the industry and they are leap-frogging ahead of their competition.”

In the Badger Sportswear deal, the company’s founders, Jerry and Bill Carr, will reinvest a significant portion of their equity as part of the transaction. Jerry Carr will remain CEO and will continue to serve as chairman of Badger’s board of directors.

Established in 1971, Statesville, NC-based Badger Sportswear is a provider of team uniforms and performance athletic wear, including performance t-shirts, fleeces, shorts, pants and outerwear, worn by youth and adult athletes, team fans and supporters and corporate employees. It supplies its products to team dealers, decorators and wholesalers throughout the U.S. The company also sells its products through a growing number of collegiate bookstores and sporting goods retailers.

“We are excited about the future of the great company we have built and the opportunity to partner with CCMP,” said Jerry Carr. “We believe CCMP’s significant consumer and retail investment and operating expertise, and its longstanding history of successfully working with family-owned businesses, make them the ideal partner to help take Badger to its next level of growth.”

“We are thrilled to be partnering with the Carr brothers and their talented team to continue to build upon the strong company and brand that they have created,” said Doug Cahill, a managing director at CCMP. “Badger’s compelling proposition of outstanding product quality, innovation and service at value price points has led to longstanding customer relationships and a clearly differentiated position in the market. We look forward to working with the Badger team to pursue numerous avenues of future growth and continued innovation.”

The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to close in September 2016. McGuireWoods LLP is serving as legal advisor to Badger, and Ropes & Gray LLP is serving as legal advisor to CCMP.

Photo courtesy Badger Sportswear

M&A deals have been getting done at a fairly consistent pace over the last few years. Here is a list of some of key mergers in the active lifestyle space over the last twelve months.

BUYER                                                              ACQUIRED ENITY 

Adidas                                                                       Runtastic

Advanced Sports International                            Performance Bicycle

Arcus Hunting Acquires                                         Trophy Taker

Asics                                                                           Runkeeper

Banded Holdings                                                      Avery Outdoors

BIGshot Archery                                                      Master Archery Targets

Bravo Sports                                                              Sector 9

Bruckmann, Rosser, Sherrill & Co.                       Daisy Outdoor Products

Brunswick                                                                   Cybex

BSN Sports                                                                  Milwaukee Sporting Goods

Cherokee Global Brands                                           Flip Flop Shops

Coghlan’s                                                                      McNett Corp.

Compass Diversified                                                  5.11 Tactical

Concourse Sports                                                       Team Express

Descente                                                                       Inov-8

Dick’s Sporting Goods                                               Affinity Sports

Differential Brands Group                                        Swims Brand

Escalade Sports                                                           Goalsetter

Fossil                                                                             Misfit

Gamo Outdoor                                                             Daisy Air Guns

Genesco                                                                         Little Burgundy

Gildan Activewear                                                       Peds Legwear

Gildan Activewear                                                       Alstyle Apparel

Global Brands                                                              Planet Socks

HanesBrands                                                               Champion Europe

Johnson Health Tech                                                 2nd Wind Exercise Equipment

Johnson Health Tech                                                 Leisure Fitness

Johnson Health Tech                                                 Stak Fitness

Johnson Outdoors                                                      Seabear Diving Technology

Implus                                                                           Fuelbelt

Implus                                                                           Harbinger

Implus                                                                           Spenco insole/2nd Skin

Incipio                                                                           Incase

Jarden Corp.                                                                Jostens

Juggernaut Capital Partners                                    Mitchell & Ness

Nautilus                                                                        Octane Fitness

New Balance/Berkshire Partners                            Rockport

Newell Rubbermaid                                                    Jarden Corp.

Nike                                                                                Virgin Mega

Pure Hockey                                                                 Total Hockey

Riddell                                                                           Kollege Town

Scott Sports                                                                  Dolomite

Sequential Brands                                                       Gaiam

Smith & Wesson                                                          Crimson Trace

Smith & Wesson                                                          Taylor Brands

United Sports Brands                                                 Nathan Sports

Vaude                                                                             Epiclist

Vista Outdoor                                                               CamelBak

Vista Outdoor                                                               BRG Sports, Inc.’s (Bell, Giro, C-Preme,Blackburn)

The Walking Co.                                                          FootSmart