Banking & Finance and Manufacturing

Private equity firm acquires tool-and-die companies

September 5, 2017
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Bernal rotary die
A food company uses Bernal rotary die tools to cut cereal flakes. Courtesy Auxo Investment Partners

A local private equity firm has closed its first acquisitions.

Grand Rapids-based Auxo Investment Partners, which was launched last October by a pair of former Blackford Capital execs and an entrepreneur, said it acquired a pair of Midwest tool-and-die manufacturers.

Auxo added Indiana-based Atlas Die and Rochester Hills-based Bernal as its first portfolio companies.

Terms of the deals were not disclosed.

“We see a tremendous opportunity to further grow and scale Atlas Die and Bernal and to drive new sales and revenue growth,” said Jack Kolodny, managing partner, Auxo Investment Partners. “We’re also actively pursuing other deals.”

Auxo said Atlas Die has a history of innovating in the tool and die market with its introduction of laser technology into the die-making process and development of flexible rotary die-making capabilities. It has 160 employees across six operations located in five states.

Bernal makes solid rotary pressure dies, crush-cut dies and high-volume rotary converting systems for die cutting, food processing, folding cartons, specialty bandages and alcohol swabs. Founded in 1972, Bernal employs 64 people at its Rochester Hills base.

“We view ourselves as stewards of our founding partners’ capital and of the legacies of our portfolio companies, their owners and their team members,” said Jeff Helminski, managing partner, Auxo Investment Partners. “As such, we’re honored to have the opportunity to assist the teams at Atlas Die and Bernal achieve their full potential by making long-term investments and providing expert operational and strategic support.”

Ken Smott, who has served as president of Atlas since 2000, will serve as CEO of both Atlas and Bernal. Smott said Auxo is “the ideal partner” to support the two companies’ continued growth.

The law firms Miller Johnson and Barnes & Thornburg, as well as BDO, Mercantile Bank, Oxer Capital and Livingstone all served as advisors on the transactions.

Auxo was founded when Helminski and Kolodny who worked together at Grand Rapids-based Blackford Capital, teamed with entrepreneur Fred Tedori to create an “investor-centric” business model. Auxo’s capital comes from its “founding partners,” a group that invests both in the firm itself and its portfolio companies.

Auxo targets North American-based manufacturing, industrial, value-added distribution or business services companies with cash flow of $1.5 to $15 million. Typically, the firm looks to partner with owner-operators seeking retirement or family succession planning or those looking to grow their businesses.

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