Potter goes global

U.K. buy establishes base in Europe, next move will be to Asia
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Sunday, June 1, 2008

ST.LOUIS, Mo.--Making good on his February promise that Potter Electric Signal would bust out of its conservative mold and that the industry would see a “new and more energized” company, president Bernie Lears on April 23 announced Potter had acquired UK-based Elmdene International.

Lears called the buy “key to our long-term strategic goal of having people on the ground in Asia, the Middle East and Europe.” Elmdene, he said, will become the “base for growth and expansion globally.”

Sean Heskett, of Potter Electric, has moved to England and will serve as president of Potter Europe and managing director of Elmdene.
Terms of the deal, which closed in late March, were not disclosed.

The purchase strengthens Potter’s position in the fire and security markets by broadening its product line, increasing its international reach and enhancing production and sourcing capabilities, as well as adding key staff.

Elmdene manufactures and designs fire and security detection products such as magnetic contacts, shock and vibration sensors, internal and external sounders, as well as a line of dedicated power supplies for fire detection, CCTV, intruder alarm and access control applications.

Tony and Celia Earl and a group of minority shareholders previously owned Elmdene. Tony Earl will stay on as Elmdene chairman of the board. Potter intends to retain all of Elmdene’s 100 current employees.

Making a major acquisition is a distinct departure from Potter’s previously quiet business strategy. In January, a group of investors--led by Two Rivers Associates and including current Potter management--purchased Potter from a family trust.

The family trust had controlled the company since the 1940s. (Search “Potter energized” at www.securitysystemsnews.com for more details.)
Lears said to expect more bold moves from Potter. Right now, he’s looking East, considering acquisitions in Asia and possibly opening a new office in China.

Asked how the uncertain U.S. economy plays into Potter’s decisions, he said the timing is right to diversify product lines and move into markets abroad. “It puts us in a much stronger position, where we do not rely strictly on the U.S. market.”