NEW YORK, NEW YORK (December 23, 2020) - Innovatus Capital Partners announced it has formed Certor Sports, LLC to actively consolidate sporting goods brands faced with significant headwinds because of COVID-19 and the corresponding disruption in youth, collegiate and professional sports.
Certor Sports, through its subsidiaries, has acquired substantially all of Kranos Corporation’s assets, IP and brands including Schutt, ProGear Shoulder Pads, Tucci Bats, Hollywood Bases and Adams USA. Earlier this year, Certor Sports, through its subsidiaries, also acquired the assets of high-tech football helmet startup VICIS.
“Certor Sports will leverage the strengths of VICIS, Schutt and its other brands to offer a broad scope of sporting goods in the marketplace,” said Ravi Bhagavatula, Partner and Head of the Lower Middle Market Distressed Strategy at Innovatus.
In all, Certor Sports now controls more than 125 domestic and international patents and pending applications in a wide-ranging intellectual property portfolio. All brands in the portfolio, including Schutt, the century-old sports equipment brand, will continue under the new ownership, with the same insurance and product design warranties, sold through a well-established sales organization. Certor Sports will continue to provide sports equipment and reconditioning services to the schools and sports leagues previously serviced by Kranos Corporation.
Kranos, which was the umbrella company to Schutt, opened a Chapter 7 liquidation case in Delaware on December 18, according to a story from Law360. Kranos, a privately held company, listed more than $58 million in liabilities and $1.2 million in sports equipment assets.
Kranos and Schutt have the same address in Litchfield, Illinois and the same CEO in Robert Erb. Schutt was not identified as a party in the liquidation case, which lists $36.7 million in secured claims and $21.6 million in unsecured claims, according to Law360. Kranos received an $18 million secured term loan in October 2019 from Innovatus.
Certor said the synergies between brands is undeniable. The Schutt F7 model is the fastest growing helmet in the NCAA and NFL. The same is true of ProGear, Certor Sports’ professional shoulder pad line, which has enjoyed double-digit growth the past three years. The product offering has always been exceptional but the growth of the business was severely hobbled by the pandemic, according to Certor.
"The difference now," says Bhagavatula, "is that Certor Sports is well-positioned to enhance operations, launch new products, pursue new business ventures, fund growth and expand rapidly into new markets. The cross-pollination of technologies between Schutt and VICIS makes for an exceptional platform."
Specifically, VICIS will be introducing three new helmets in 2021 that are lighter, better fitting and better performing than the headline grabbing Zero1. Schutt's UR1 custom-configured helmets offer personalized fit to elite NFL and collegiate athletes through a patented process of individualized pressure mapping and placement of variable thickness pads that can be altered or reconfigured on demand. VICIS helmets offer unique shell-in-shell construction and exceptional performance across a wide array of high and low velocity impacts. The combination of the two technologies should dominate the independent third-party testing lists. Certor intends to use this technology and expand into baseball, lacrosse, hockey, action sports and other protective gear.
Additionally, Certor Sports, through a subsidiary, has acquired the Tucci Lumber brand, a provider of elite Major League Baseball bats, and Hollywood Bases, the Official Base of Major League Baseball since 1936. These products, and others, help to offset the deep seasonality of the football business. These brands will also be able to leverage Certor Sports’ deep patent portfolio to create both new and improved products to better serve athletes everywhere.
"Despite the significant decline in youth sports participation, the Schutt brand experienced the great sell-through numbers for high-end sport retailers, such as Dick's, Academy, and online retailers such as Amazon. Schutt helmets and Pro Gear shoulder pads can be seen every weekend at the highest levels of competition," according to Kip Meyer, the General Manager of Certor Sports’ subsidiary, Schutt Sports.
“We believe the sports equipment space is ripe for consolidation. The number of independent operators is shrinking. Those that can weather the storm will emerge stronger and leaner once team sports return in the second half of next year,” said David Schiff, Founding Partner at Innovatus.
“Certor Sports will operate a family of brands that aims to meet the needs of athletes year-round. In addition to targeting expansion opportunities in Spring, Summer and Winter sports, we will continue to allocate significant capital towards research and development to bring the next generation of top-performing products to market,” said Jeff Holland, Vice President at Innovatus.
About Certor Sports
Certor Sports, LLC, located in New York City, is a domestic sporting goods manufacturer with a comprehensive patent portfolio doing business under a variety of brands including VICIS, Schutt, ProGear, Tucci Bats, Hollywood Bases, Adams USA among others.
Innovatus Capital Partners, LLC is a New York-based registered investment adviser and portfolio management firm with assets in excess of $1.4 billion under management; focused on creating value across special situations, emergent asset classes, private credit and asset-based investments. Innovatus adheres to an investment strategy that identifies disruptive and growth opportunities across multiple asset categories with a unifying theme of capital preservation, income generation and upside optionality.
Innovatus’ lower middle market strategy seeks to invest in companies with a strong market position, tangible and identifiable value and excellent growth potential. The investment team works closely with business owners, management teams, and lenders to develop creative financial and operational solutions in both control and non-control situations. The team targets lower middle market and middle market companies with revenues of $25–$250 million with typical deal sizes from $10-$50 million.