Confluence CEO Stresses Business to Boom at Kayak Builder
Says acquisition by equity firm J.H. Whitney will bring investment to the company
By Paul Lebowitz
The news broke yesterday and spread quickly. Private equity firm J.H. Whitney has bought Confluence Watersports, parent company of major fishing kayak brand Wilderness Systems. A press release announced the company would be henceforth known as Confluence Outdoors. What does it mean for the company, its employees and loyal customers?
Kayak Fish caught up with Sue Rechner, ongoing Confluence CEO and president. She was in high spirits, still energetic despite what must have been a long day answering questions.
KF: The press release announcing the acquisition of Confluence by J.H. Whitney Capital Partners included several interesting nuggets. One that caught my eye indicates the new Confluence Outdoors will have an expanded vision to grow the business into a full-service outdoor recreation company. What does that mean?
SR: We were hoping people would wonder.
Confluence has a long legacy in the paddlesports business, a great portfolio of brands. J.H. Whitney is steeped in consumer products. They have a long legacy of helping outdoor companies build great businesses.
If you think of somebody who kayaks, they probably camp, hike and bike too. Once we grow our paddlesports business into categories such as SUP and accessories, we want to look at how else we can help consumers.
KF: You mention growing the paddlesports brands. Does that mean you’ll be hanging the help wanted sign?
SR: Yes. The acquisition is a positive. There are no changes. The only change is investment by J.H. Whitney, allowing the company to be even better, to invest in people and equipment.
KF: You will continue as CEO and company president for the newly named Confluence Outdoors. Do you consider that a vote of confidence that emphasizes the importance of CO’s paddlesports brands such as Wilderness Systems, Dagger, Perception?
SR: Yes. J.H. Whitney is investing in us because they love what we do. Whitney is a private equity firm, not an operator. They are confident in our experienced management team. My daily work is operating the company so it can grow.
KF: The press release emphasizes that Confluence will continue to be based in Greenville, S.C., with no changes to its operations or facilities. Was that meant to reassure employees and loyal customers that it’s business as usual?
SR: It is. Since you’re a fishing outlet, I want to reassure everyone we are making significant investments in fishing. Our business on the fishing side is fantastic. We have incredible innovations to introduce in 2014.
KF: Such as the Thresher big water kayaks?
SR: Yes, and that’s not the only thing coming.