JMH Buys Christian Chain

Buyer: JMH Capital

Seller: Standex International

Target: Berean Christian Stores

Terms: Undisclosed

Financial Advisor: Seller: Berkery, Noyes

Legal Counsel: Buyer: Choate Hall & Stewart

Accountant: Buyer: Brandlin & Associates

Religion is becoming trendy among buyout groups. The latest deal comes from JMH Capital, which knocked out its second deal of the summer, buying Christian retailer Standex Internationa unit Berean Christian Stores. Terms weren’t disclosed.

There have been a few notable religious buyouts recently. The Wicks Group of Companies bought Standard Publishing, which was also owned by Standex, in July, and earlier this year, InterMedia Advisors bought Christian book publisher Thomas Nelson Inc. for $473 million.

Berean, meanwhile, has 17 stores and sells books, children’s items, music and other Christian themed products. Based in Cincinnati, Ohio, it also has stores in Arizona, California, Georgia, Kentucky and Indiana.

JMH Managing Director Scott Steele knew Berean CEO Les Dietzman from an investment Steele had been a part of when Dietzman was the head of Zondervan, a Christian publishing division of Harper Collins (renamed Family Christian Stores).

Steele described Christian retailing as “a highly fragmented market,” adding, “There are a lot of independents that approach it as a ministry first and as a business second.”

He noted that since religion has made inroads into popular culture—with movies like Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe—he believes “there’s a big opportunity for a well-run chain.”

“Vendors in the space are very loyal to the Christian retail channel. A lot of product is focused exclusively on Christian retail,” he added.

JMH’s first deal this summer, which closed in June, was the purchase of Carlisle Wide Plank Floors, a maker of flooring for home remodelers and builders.

JMH is investing out of its debut fund, which closed in early 2006 with $101 million. Privately held engineered materials company J.M. Huber Corp. is the fund’s largest LP, though its contribution totaled less than half of the amount raised.

With the fundraise and portfolio expansion, the Waltham, Mass.-based firm has added to its bench, bringing in John Nies, who was formerly a partner at The Parthenon Group. (Steele too, came from Parthenon.)

Other JMH portfolio companies include Advanced Organics Inc. and Endres Processing, recyclers of food for animal feed, and Dixie Clamp and CAM Fabrication, which make concrete supplies for construction companies. —M.C.