Linear's gates marry GTO's openers

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Wednesday, February 1, 2006

CARLSBAD, Calif.--Looking to put a little swing in their step, Linear LLC, a subsidiary of Nortek, in December purchased GTO, a manufacturer of automatic gate openers. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. GTO was founded in 1987 and is currently run by chairman Chuck Mitchell and president Joe Kelley, both of whom will remain with the company, which will continue to be independently managed on an operations basis.
"Linear is perceived as a leader in the access control industry," said Kelley, "and some of the reputation that they have built over the years is something that will really assist GTO in reaching the next level. The products that we have manufactured over the last 20 years have a lot of synergy with some of the products that Linear has." Kelley was also excited about Linear's ability to assist with research and development and that the combination of Linear's gates and GTO's openers would allow for contractors to do "one-stop shopping." As for where GTO can help Linear, Kelley said that while the retail market is not new to Linear, GTO does offer some different and popular products, like their Mighty Mule line of do-it-yourself automatic openers sold through retailers like Home Depot and Lowe's.
"That's how our business was founded," said Kelley, around the do-it-yourself product. "In 1987 the founders of the company viewed that there was a niche in the market that wasn't being filled by anybody. Those products grew into the commercial industry."
Linear's vice president of marketing, Chuck Stevens, said GTO's GTO Pro line featured some "very exotic products. Their stuff is built to last." That, he said, would complement offerings from Linear's entry-systems-oriented group of companies.
"At Linear, we are focused on two entirely different product groups," he said. For instance, in June, Linear purchased the California-based Panamax, which manufactures surge-protection equipment. That followed the March, 2004, purchase of OmniMount, which makes A/V mounting equipment. Both of these buys were aimed at growing Linear's relatively recent entry into the consumer electronics field. Traditionally, however, Linear has focused on access control, medical and emergency reporting systems, and garage and gate openers. Along those lines, and similar to the GTO buy, Linear also acquired Operator Specialty Company, which manufactures gate and door-opener systems, in late 2003.
"The relative sales of both groups is about 50/50," said Stevens, "and resources are being spent pretty much 50/50. New product development monies are pretty much split up." However, he said, marketing efforts would likely lean toward the A/V-oriented companies, which are more targeted toward consumers.