December 27th, 2007

Remington Acquires Marlin Firearms

Another legendary arms maker falls into the hands of private holding company Cerberus Capital Management. Remington Arms (owned by Cerberus), has announced that it will acquire Marlin Firearms. A major player in the cowboy action and hunting market, Marlin Firearms offers a varied line-up of popular rifles including rimfire and centerfire lever guns. This past year, Cerberus also acquired Bushmaster Firearms, and just last week Cerberus announced the acquisition of DPMS, another AR-platform rifle-maker.

Two Legendary Gun Brands Combine
The Remington-Marlin deal will create a company with an estimated half-billion dollars in total annual sales. Marlin currently employs 575 workers and generates revenues of about $28.3 million/year. The Marlin deal also includes H&R 1871 Inc., which was purchased by Marlin in 2000. H&R operates as New England Firearms. With its line of Harrington & Richardson rifles, and L.C. Smith shotguns, H&R 1871 is the leading seller of single-shot rifles and shotguns in the world.

The acquisition of Marlin by Remington is set to conclude by the end of January 2008. Remington’s CEO, Tommy Millner, declared: “I am pleased to announce that Marlin’s well-known brands… will join the Remington family. The opportunity to combine two historic U.S.-based companies with such storied and proud histories, is both challenging and exhilarating.” Millner added that Marlin President, Bob Behn, “will remain as president of Marlin, charting a course of further growth and operational improvement.”

Frank Kenna III, Marlin’s Chairman, had these comments: “Marlin has been a family-run business since 1924[.] We knew it was time to find the right partner for Marlin to ensure our brands maintain their leadership positions and move into the next century.”

COMMENT: Cerberus, named after the three-headed hell-hound of Greek mythology, seems relentless in its efforts to acquire and consolidate American arms manufacturers. There is a positive side to this. Affiliation with Cerberus provides improved marketing and distribution “clout” for acquired smaller players such as DPMS, which is probably a healthy thing. And we’ve already seen how Cerberus is folding together the product lines of its Bushmaster and Remington divisions. Rebranding Bushmaster AR15s as Remington Target/Varmint rifles is a smart marketing move.

Still, the acquisition of Marlin gives us pause. One wonders what comes next. Marlin has a legendary history and a strong following for its rimfire and lever action rifles. What does Remington (and its parent Cerberus) really plan to do with Marlin in the long-term? Should we worry about a “strip and flip” strategy? How is this going to affect parts supplies, warranty work, and customer service? Personally, I don’t want to have deal with Remington just to get a spare part for my Marlin 39A. And when should shooters and hunters start to worry about having so many brands owned by the same holding company? (Remember, “Monopoly” is not just a parlor game.) DPMS and Bushmaster used to be directly competitive. Now they are under the same umbrella. What’s next? Does Cerberus have eyes on Savage… or perhaps even Smith & Wesson?

Smith & Wesson has recently suffered major woes on Wall Street, losing 73% of its book value compared to summer 2007. Cerberus-owned companies currently make every type of firearm except one — handguns. It would seem logical for Cerberus to consider S&W if Cerberus’ goal is to be the #1 player in the firearms market. Right now Smith & Wesson is ripe for the picking….

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