Gridiron Capital Reels In Crane-Maker

Target: Ramsey Industries

Price: Undisclosed

Sponsor: Gridiron Capital

Industry: Cranes and winches

Taking a break from buying sports-products manufacturers, Gridiron Capital has purchased crane-maker Ramsey Industries Inc. Equity came from the New Canaan, Conn.-based firm’s debut fund, Gridiron Capital Fund, likely to close this June between $250 million and $300 million.

Ramsey Industries, with roughly $100 million in sales, makes telescopic cranes and winches used in the oil and gas, mining and non-residential construction industries. Founded in 1944, the company employs roughly 300 in Tulsa, Okla. Terms weren’t disclosed on the deal, but Buyouts has learned that CIT Group provided $50 million in senior debt. There was also a mezzanine piece to the financing. Management is keeping more than 20 percent of the equity.

Gridiron founder Thomas Burger said that his firm found Ramsey Industries by cold calling. The firm sees opportunities to expand distribution to new markets and also expand the company’s product offerings to include cranes of different sizes.

Founded in early 2005, Gridiron’s strategy is to buy middle-market manufacturing companies, and the majority of its deals have had a sports angle. Portfolio companies include Easton, Pa.-based Circle System Group, which recycles sports equipment; Granite Quarry, N.C.-based McKenzie Sports Products, which makes taxidermy products for hunters and fishers; and Litchfield, Ill.-based Schutt Sports, which is the largest maker of football helmets in the world.

“In general, the sporting goods market has very positive trends in regards to industry consolidation, consumer spend [and] greater emphasis on protection, safety and performance,” said Burger, a former Duke University football player. “The industry has historically been made up of a few large players and many smaller family-owned businesses. The opportunities now to acquire these smaller companies and consolidate the industry are growing.”

Gridiron has done five deals altogether, two of them outside its debut fund, which to date has closed on $190 million.

Prior to founding Gridiron, Burger was a managing director at both RFE Investment Partners and Butler Capital Corp. Co-founder Eugene Conese was at one time president of Greenwich Air Services Inc. and prior to that he was president of Haskon Corp., a supplier of silicone rubber seals to the aerospace industry.

The two founders of Gridiron Capital shared something in common with Ramsey Industries’s management team that helped them connect, said Burger. Both Burger and Conese grew up in family businesses. Said Burger: “We’ve been on the other side of the table.”—M.C.