Architecture, Banking & Finance, and Retail

Founder selling furniture chain to private equity firm

January 25, 2017
| By Pat Evans |
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Art Van Elslander
Art Van Elslander. Courtesy Art Van Furniture

A Michigan furniture chain with multiple West Michigan locations is being sold to an East Coast private equity firm.

Warren-based Art Van Furniture said today its founder and sole shareholder Art Van Elslander has agreed to sell the furniture retailer to Boston-based Thomas H. Lee Partners, or THL.

Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

The deal is expected to close in February.

RBC Capital Markets advised Art Van Furniture, and Goldman, Sachs & Co. acted as the financial advisor for THL.

“The time for an ownership transition is right, and the opportunity presented itself,” Van Elslander said. “There is still much I want to do, and I feel confident knowing the company and its people will be in the very best of hands for continued growth and success.”

Art Van

Founded on Gratiot Avenue in Detroit in 1959, Art Van Furniture has grown to include more than 100 stores in five states and more than 3,500 employees.

“The heartbeat of any organization is its people,” Van Elslander said. “I am proud of Art Van Furniture’s history and what we have accomplished.”

Gary Van Elslander will remain as president of Art Van Furniture, and David Van Elslander will remain as president of Art Van PureSleep. Kim Yost will remain as CEO and work with THL to shape the company’s future.

“We are collectively committed to building on Mr. Van’s tremendous legacy as we enter this new chapter of the Art Van Furniture story,” Yost said.

Art Van has two Grand Rapids area stores and six Art Van PureSleep locations. Holland also has a combined Art Van Furniture and Art Van PureSleep, and Muskegon has individual Art Van Furniture and Art Van PureSleep locations.


Thomas H. Lee Partners, founded in 1974, has invested in more than 130 businesses.

The private equity firm’s past acquisitions include 1-800 Contacts, Bargain Hunt Superstores, Dunkin’ Brands, Fogo de Chao and Party City.

“We are gratified and honored to be able to partner with Art Van Furniture as the company moves into its next phase of growth,” said Jeff Swenson, managing director, THL. “Over nearly six decades, the company has continuously realized Mr. Van’s vision and set the standard for excellence in furniture retail in the Midwest.”

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