Potter energized by new ownership

Saturday, March 1, 2008

ST. LOUIS--It's a new day for Potter Electric Signal, said CEO Bernie Lears, as the result of a purchase of the venerable fire and security manufacturer by a "syndicate of investors."
The investors, led by Two Rivers Associates, an $88 million venture capital firm based here, also included members of "the management team, people in the community and associates. There is a plethora of investors ... there's no controlling party," he said. Terms of the deal were not released.
Expect to "see a new and more energized Potter than you've seen in years past," Lears said. Potter manufactures and designs electronic controls and monitoring devices and related accessories used in the fire sprinkler, electronic fire and security markets around the world.
The company has been held in trust since 1946 by descendents of founder Charles Potter. The trust was managed "conservatively," Lears said, and that "did not allow the kind of growth the current board of directors and management believe is available to us."
Lears called the acquisition process a "long and arduous journey," but said the timing was right: The tax climate was favorable for the shareholders to get the maximum payout and the equity market was right for the buying syndicate to get the funding they needed. Stiffel Nicolaus advised Potter Electric throughout the sale process.
Lears said Potter would now be making acquisitions, investing directly in current operations and joint ventures.
Potter has made some small acquisitions in the recent past, he said, and the company is currently working on an acquisition, expected to be complete this spring, that "touches on both the fire and security business."