Kinderhook Industries has executed a transaction whereby Bestop Inc. has been acquired from Magna International Inc. This is through a new Kinderhook/Magna joint venture that will pursue growth opportunities in the Jeep aftermarket. This is Kinderhook’s eighth automotive platform investment and 16th transaction in the automotive aftermarket sector. Final terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
Headquartered in Louisville, Colorado, Bestop is a leading manufacturer of soft tops and fabric accessories for Jeep vehicles and the sole supplier of OEM soft tops for Jeep Wranglers since 1986. Bestop has been a premier brand in the Jeep and 4×4 industry for more than 60 years, producing a large variety of accessories including soft tops, doors and windows, powerboards, seats, storage and racks, bumpers, floor liners, tonneau covers and bed covers that are sold through both OE and aftermarket channels. The company has been an operating subsidiary of Magna since 1996.
Tom Tuttle, managing director at Kinderhook, stated, “We are excited to partner with Magna to execute an organic and acquisition-led growth strategy in the Jeep aftermarket. The combination of Bestop’s leading market position, the resources and operational expertise of Magna coupled with Kinderhook’s extensive experience and relationships in the automotive aftermarket uniquely position Bestop to lead a successful consolidation in the Jeep aftermarket. Continued investment in brand development and aggressive product innovation will accelerate Bestop’s growth and facilitate its extension into new and exciting markets and product categories.”
Magna is a leading global automotive supplier with 319 manufacturing operations and 85 product development, engineering and sales centers in 29 countries. The company has approximately 136,000 employees.
“We have enjoyed building a relationship with Kinderhook throughout this process and are confident this partnership will position Bestop to achieve the next phase of its strategic plan,” said Frank Seguin, president of Magna Closures. “We feel the opportunity to partner with Kinderhook and combine its track record of investing in the automotive aftermarket with Magna’s product development and world-class manufacturing capability positions Bestop to strengthen its reputation as a leader in premium Jeep accessories.”
John Larson has assumed the role of CEO, concurrent with the closing. Larson comes to Bestop with a long history of innovation in the automotive market, both from an OEM and aftermarket perspective. Most recently, he served as the president and CEO of Escort Inc., a supplier of high-performance radar detection devices in North America. Prior to that, Larson held a number of senior management positions at General Motors, including general manager of the Buick, Pontiac and GMC Truck divisions. He is currently lead independent director on the Board of KAR Auction Services.
“I have long admired the Jeep brand and Bestop is one of the pre-eminent brands in the Jeep industry. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Kinderhook, Magna and the Bestop team to lead the company in its exciting next phase of growth,” said Larson.
“The investment in Bestop aligns perfectly with Kinderhook’s investment strategy of partnering with world-class management teams to acquire companies who are leaders in their respective niches,” added Paul Cifelli, managing director at Kinderhook. “John Larson is a proven leader with a wealth of industry experience and relationships to lead Bestop going forward. We are excited about the opportunity to work with Mr. Larson and the high-caliber team Magna has assembled to support their vision for growth for the company. We are confident that Kinderhook’s proven ‘buy-and-build’ strategy will accelerate the company’s growth and allow us to build the largest and most diverse supplier of Jeep aftermarket products in the United States.”
Kirkland & Ellis LLP served as legal counsel to Kinderhook. Sidley Austin LLP served as legal counsel to Magna. Financing for the transaction was provided by a debt syndicate led by GE Antares Capital, Babson Capital Management and NewStar Financial.