By Eric Smith

May was busy for M&A in the active lifestyle space, headlined by a European lifestyle retailer entering the U.S. market through a timely acquisition and private equity firms purchasing a well-known fitness equipment company and longtime ski maker.

In the biggest strategic move of last month, German-based streetwear retailer Snipes acquired Philadelphia, PA-based retailer KicksUSA. Snipes, which has been part of Germany’s Deichmann Group since 2011, will transition its brand, signage and operations to 62 existing KicksUSA stores along the East Coast.

“Expanding into the United States fulfills a lifelong dream of mine to start a business here,” Sven Voth, CEO, founder and managing director of Snipes, told SGB for our recent analysis of the deal. “For me, it was just a matter of time, and the moment was right.”

Voth said the company plans to keep the KicksUSA management team in place and will be adding positions in the coming months. The company also will remain headquartered in Philadelphia.

In one of the largest financial deals in May, KPS Capital Partners LP—the manager of the KPS Special Situations Funds, a family of investment funds with over $5.1 billion of assets under management—acquired the fitness division of Brunswick Corp., including fitness equipment manufacturer Life Fitness, for $490 million.

The move allows Brunswick to focus on its marine assets and Life Fitness to flourish under the financial backing of a firm that will look to strengthen the brand’s position in the marketplace.

“KPS recognizes our world-class brand positioning, the value of our customer relationships, our iconic standing within the fitness industry and our long-term earning potential,” said Jason Worthy, president, Life Fitness. “We will work closely with KPS to develop and execute a focused strategic plan centered around our mission to inspire healthier lives. We will build upon our long and successful history of product development and technology leadership, with the goal of providing the highest-quality solutions and services for a broad range of fitness facilities and fitness consumers.”

KPS is no stranger to the active lifestyle space. The firm in 2017 bought TaylorMade from Adidas. Tiger Woods gave the brand a nice boost in April by winning the Masters using TaylorMade clubs. According to CNBC, special edition replica TaylorMade Tiger Woods irons were selling for $2,000, about 40 percent higher than standard irons.

In another deal involving private equity, KJK Management bought Elan d.o.o., the Slovenian sporting goods company best known for its skis and snowboards. Financial terms were not disclosed.

SGB has written extensively about Elan’s North American division, Elan Sports USA, which saw sales grow 20 percent in North America, helping this market surpass Europe as the company’s largest. Read more about Elan in our recent feature on Elan Sports USA’s president and CEO, Jeff Mechura, by clicking here.

Here is the least you need to know about these top active lifestyle M&A deals from May:

Snipes Acquires KicksUSA

The 411 — German-based streetwear retailer Snipes acquired Philadelphia, PA-based KicksUSA, marking its entrance into the U.S. Founded in 1998, Snipes has been continually expanding and has a presence in more than 230 stores in eight European countries. Snipes, which has been part of Germany’s Deichmann Group since 2011, will transition its brand, signage and operations to 62 existing KicksUSA stores along the East Coast. Founded by John Lee with the first store opening in Philadelphia in 2003, KicksUSA’s stores are primarily in the cities of Philadelphia and New York and in the state of New Jersey, as well as an online shop.

Reaction — “With this introduction, we bring the excitement, energy and enthusiasm that the Snipes brand carries from Europe directly to the East Coast. Our commitment to keeping trendsetters of all ages up to date with the latest streetwear and sneaker releases is truly our passion – and we are looking forward to extending our unique concept to US customers.” —Sven Voth, CEO, Founder and Managing Director, Snipes

What’s next? — As Voth told SGB in the recent Q&A, Snipes Takes On U.S. Market, the company wants to bring to the U.S. market what it has successfully achieved in Europe: “Snipes is urban authenticity ‘raised from concrete.’ And that’s exactly what we want to bring to the USA and extend it to great events, digital store designs and an authentic brand feel that we are famous for in Europe. We like to prove that with our first stores here on the East Coast and want to set a course for growth and carry our concept throughout the United States.”

Life Fitness To Be Acquired By KPS Capital Partners

The 411 — Brunswick Corp. and KPS Capital Partners LP (KPS) entered into a definitive agreement for KPS to acquire Brunswick’s fitness business and related brands, including Life Fitness, for $490 million. Life Fitness manufactures and sells its strength and cardiovascular equipment, billiards tables and accessories, and game room furniture under the brand names Life Fitness, Hammer Strength, Cybex, Indoor Cycling Group, SCIFIT and Brunswick Billiards. Brunswick announced plans to spin off the business last year to focus on its marine operations.

Reaction — “With the sale of the fitness business, we sharpen our focus on Brunswick’s unique and formidable marine platform. Brunswick has an impressive stable of recognized and respected brands and offers the right products and services uniquely concentrated in growing and emerging marine market segments. Brunswick is exceptionally positioned as a leader in the marine industry, and we are excited about the bright future ahead of us.” —David Foulkes, CEO, Brunswick Corp.

What’s next? — Jay Bernstein, a partner in KPS, said the firm is “exceedingly confident that Life Fitness will thrive as an independent company.” He added, “We look forward to working with President Jason Worthy, his management team, and Life Fitness employees globally to build on this great platform and the company’s strong design, innovation and product development heritage. KPS’ track record of leveraging its capital, global platform, and commitment to investing in technology, innovation, growth, and customer service presents a tremendous opportunity for Life Fitness.”

Slovenia’s Elan Sold To KJK

The 411 — KJK Management has completed the purchase of 100 percent of the shares of Elan d.o.o., the Slovenian sporting goods company best known for its skis and snowboards. Financial terms were not disclosed. The purchase was made through KJK Fund III, a €250 million private equity fund launched in 2018. Elan, based in Begunje, Slovenia, was founded in 1945 and operates under four main divisions, including winter sports equipment.

Reaction — “We are delighted to have closed the purchase of Elan after nine months of work. We believe that Elan’s relentless focus on its customers makes its products highly relevant to consumers, thereby making Elan highly competitive on the world stage.” —Kustaa Äimä, Founder and Senior Partner, KJK

What’s next? — Elan’s management team, led by Elan CEO Jeffrey Tirman, will continue managing the company. Tirman also will assume the role of CEO of KJK’s newly created holding company, KJK Sports. Äimä added, “Elan will play a central role in KJK’s efforts to build a sporting goods business focused on enabling friends and families to lead year-round active outdoor lifestyles.”

**Other deals from last month. In case you missed it, here are other notable deals—announcements of either new acquisitions or ones that closed—that occurred across the active lifestyle industry in May (click the headline to read SGB’s coverage when the transaction was announced):

Photo courtesy Snipes