When it comes to looking for a place to get your motorcycle gear and apparel stores in the US, you’d be hard-pressed to find a shop that has as many of your needs as Cycle Gear. The nationwide retailer has been a pillar of the motorcycle industry in this country so when news came out that private equity firm J.W. Childs Associates, L.P. had swooped in and purchased a controlling interest in the company’s stock from previous owner Harvest Partners, LP, we had to come out and bring it out of the woodwork.

A lot of us have had dealings with Cycle Gear in the past, some not going past the mailboxes where the store sends their annual catalogs. But for those who have been to Cycle Gear or bought some bike parts and accessories in the store, this transaction is interesting to take note of, if only for the fact that the new owners could change the makeup of the company.

We already know that a major shakeup is in order in Cycle Gear’s upper management, most notably William E. Watts, a partner at J.W. Childs, assuming control as the new chairman of the company. Hopefully, the new owners don’t change a lot about the company from its current iteration. It’s not immune to issues, but for the most part, Cycle Gear has lived up to its status as one of the country’s premier motorcycle shops.

Here’s to seeing more of that success continue now that it’s under new management.

Click past the jump to read more about Cycle Gear.

Why it matters

If you’re not all too-familiar with Cycle Gear, you only need to check out its website, cyclegear.com, to understand how extensively its motorcycle catalogs really are. Whether you’re in the market for motorcycle tires, jackets, helmets, or any other kind of paraphernalia, Cycle Gear has plenty of them to offer you. Some might even fall under the clearance rack, which is a double bonus if you’re looking for the right item.

Now that it’s under new ownership, there might be some apprehension on the changes J.W. Childs Associates will have that will affect the consumers. Hopefully, that’s not the case here. We like how Cycle Gear’s already setup and we assume that its new owners will feel the same way. Granted, a few changes could be beneficial, but let’s try to believe that Cycle Gear will continue as it is, offering a wide variety of motorcycle gear and apparels that a lot of bike heads will continue to patronize.

Cycle Gear

Cycle Gear was founded in 1974 and in the years since, it has become arguably the most recognized national retailer dedicated to motorsports riders and bike enthusiasts. In the years that have gone, Cycle Gear has grown so much that it now has well over 112 stores spread across 34 different states. That’s not even counting its online presence, which now accounts for a big part of its business, and its annual catalogue that numbers close to 13 million copies every year.

For those who’ve been to a Cycle Gear store, it would be easy to understand why the company has lasted this long and has had so much success. It’s got a highly engaged team of motorcycle enthusiasts acting as staff members. On top of that, it also has a presence in over 1,000 bike events every year, whether through sponsorships or simple community rides in various parts of the country.

The company’s track record is the likely reason why Boston-based private equity firm J.W. Childs purchase a majority stake in the company. The private equity firm has been around since 1995 and has since invested close to $3 billion of equity capital in companies like Cycle Gear. Hopefully, this purchase goes well for all parties involved.

Press Release

J.W. Childs Associates, L.P., an established private equity firm specializing in leveraged buyouts and recapitalizations of middle-market growth companies, today announced it has acquired a majority interest in Cycle Gear, Inc., a leading provider of motorcycle apparel, parts and accessories, from Harvest Partners, LP. Financial terms of the investment were not disclosed.

Concurrent with this transaction, William E. Watts, a Partner at J.W. Childs, will assume the role of Chairman of Cycle Gear. David Bertram, Cycle Gear’s Founding Chairman, will retire from day-to-day executive management of the company but will remain on the Board of Directors. Peter Laughton, a long-time Director of Cycle Gear and industry veteran, will also remain on the Board. Tracy Wan, a seasoned specialty retail executive who joined Cycle Gear in 2009 as Chief Operating Officer, is being promoted to President and joining the Board of Directors. Tracy will assume executive leadership of the business.

“Partnering with an experienced investment firm like J.W. Childs is a logical next step in the evolution of Cycle Gear,” said Mr. Bertram. “I’m confident that under their stewardship we will accelerate the company’s growth. It’s been an honor working with an incredible team of passionate motorcyclists and retail professionals to grow Cycle Gear into a dominant force in the motorcycle industry. I look forward to my continued participation on the Board of Directors.”

Also in connection with the acquisition by J.W. Childs, Joseph Fortunato, a long-time specialty retail executive and CEO of GNC from 2005 to 2014 will join the Board as Lead Director and consultant.

“Tracy has played a key role in Cycle Gear’s recent success and I look forward to working directly with her and the senior management team to further extend the Company’s leadership position,” said Mr. Fortunato. “Having led GNC through dramatic growth as both a private equity-owned and public company, I’m excited and confident about Cycle Gear’s potential.”

“Cycle Gear has the leading omni-channel footprint in the motorcycle accessories category and we see significant market opportunity for the company,” said Mr. Watts. “This investment is a perfect fit with J.W. Childs’ long-term strategy of investing in leading specialty retailers and we look forward to helping guide this next phase of Cycle Gear’s growth. We are delighted Dave and Peter are remaining on the Board and thrilled that Joe will make his substantial experience available to Cycle Gear as we look to create meaningful value.”

Kaye Scholer LLP provided legal counsel to J.W. Childs. White & Case LLP provided legal counsel and Piper Jaffray and Financo served as financial advisors to Cycle Gear.
Founded in 1974, Cycle Gear is the only omni-channel national retailer dedicated to motorsports riders and enthusiasts. The company operates 112 stores in 34 states, has a significant and growing online business, and distributes more than 13 million catalogs annually. Cycle Gear is known for a differentiated store experience, with retail locations designed for and staffed by motorcycle enthusiasts, and is highly engaged with its customer base, sponsoring more than 1,000 bike nights and over 150 events and community rides annually. Cycle Gear is headquartered in Benicia, California. For more information, visit www.cyclegear.com.

J.W. Childs is a Boston-based private equity firm focused on investing in middle-market growth companies. Since inception in 1995, J.W. Childs has invested $3 billion of equity capital in more than 40 best-in-class companies across the consumer, specialty retail and healthcare industries. The firm’s success has been built on its industry focus and the extensive operating expertise of its partners. For more information, please visit www.jwchilds.com.

Founded in 1981, Harvest Partners, LP is a leading New York-based private equity investment firm pursuing management buyouts and recapitalizations of middle market companies in North America. Harvest focuses on acquiring profitable companies in the industrial and energy services, manufacturing and distribution, consumer and business services, and healthcare services sectors. This strategy leverages Harvest’s 30 plus years of experience in financing organic and acquisition-oriented growth companies.

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