Cortland Line Company Bought by Group of Private Investors
Hot off the email this morning is this press release from Cortland announcing their acquisition - "Fans of this Fabled Brand Look to Restore Luster through Better Execution, Revamped Marketing and Introduction of New Product To Achieve Strong Growth Momentum."
Cortland Line Company, one of the oldest manufacturers of premium braided fishing line and a comprehensive assortment of fishing equipment and apparel, is pleased to announce the sale of its business and various operations to a well-capitalized group of private investors. As lifelong fly fishermen, the new owners have a deep respect for the brand and appreciate its commitment to quality over the past 98 years.
The investment group is not an existing investment firm, but rather friends who came together with the objective of owning and restoring one of the fishing industry's oldest brands to a leadership position. According to a spokesman for the group, the first step will be a capital infusion to preserve continuity and strengthen the balance sheet in an effort to stabilize the business. The next step will be to focus on execution.
Brian Ward will continue in his capacity as CEO with a focus on key client relationships and growing the overseas customer base. Internal operations will be overseen by incoming COO Randy Brown, who wants to better define how to optimally manufacture, market and service the industry and become a more innovative, responsive enterprise. Randy brings 35 years of banking and operations management to Cortland, most recently as President of a business he took from $10 million in annual revenues to $100 million in less than a decade. "This is not a long shot but rather an exceptionally attractive opportunity with lots of potential," Randy said. "I think we can begin to focus on growing the business and earning back market share within the next twelve months. We have all the essential ingredients; working capital, viable product, a good reputation, a loyal customer base, and most importantly, a dedicated, knowledgeable staff. In fact, a majority of our employees have spent their entire careers with Cortland. I was immediately taken by the family-style culture internally, with many here being third generation Cortland employees."
“I have been involved with operations and managing people most of my career, and I feel fortunate to have enjoyed a little bit of success along the way,” continues Mr. Brown, who is busy developing a thoughtful, realistic corporate vision. He has already created a series of plans that focus on the areas of plant floor operations, shipping, brand awareness, sales, and product innovation. He also suggested that once his management team gets a better handle on the business, we shouldn’t rule out more acquisitions and perhaps some important new hires at the senior level to lead defined growth and new market opportunities.
Another investor and owner will be incoming Chairman Alexander "Sandy" Douglas, a successful businessman who resides in nearby Syracuse, New York. As a member of the Adirondack League Club, Sandy has been fly fishing his entire life and is considered by many an expert, though he is not a professional guide. "My wife laughs at my obsession, but honestly there is nothing I enjoy more than throwing a fly on a beautiful summer evening. I had the pleasure of fishing with Leon Chandler on several occasions and nobody could cast a line like Leon. He was my hero," admits Mr. Douglas. "Please call me Sandy, Mr. Douglas is way too formal and makes me feel old. I've probably owned fifty rods but my first was a Cortland. All these years later I still have it and it's still one of my favorites, so I am genuinely excited to become a part of Cortland."
"Regarding the business, I appreciate all that Cortland is, but see room for improvement," Sandy continues. "I would like to see a renewed emphasis on R&D, and a rethinking of sales and marketing altogether. While Cortland has customers in an impressive number of countries where fishing is prevalent, we must focus the pro shops and independent dealers domestically that have been ardent supporters for generations. We will improve our support to them and begin with a stronger website and product delivery system. There are many areas where we can improve but we will start at the customer level. The fishing industry is well served by many strong and respected competitors and we have to earn business, but Cortland was a leader for many, many years and there is no reason it can't be again."