North Sails and EdgeWater parent has new owner

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U.K.-based Oakley Capital Private Equity bought North Technology Group’s family of companies, including EdgeWater Boats and North Sails.

Oakley, founded by U.K. businessman and sailing enthusiast Peter Dubens, announced the acquisition of a majority stake in the company today.

“We are delighted to be backing North Technology Group and an iconic brand like North Sails,” Dubens said in a statement. “This investment further demonstrates Oakley’s appetite to work with successful entrepreneurially led businesses. We are hugely excited by the potential of North Sails and look forward to working with the management team in the next stage of its evolution.”

Originating with North Sails, founded by Lowell North in 1957, North Technology Group consists of three major marine brands: North Sails, Southern Spars and EdgeWater Boats. Included in the family are North Thin Ply Technology and North Cutting Systems.

The acquisition will further align North Sails with other North Technology Group companies, specifically Southern Spars. Completing the transaction results in the ability to better share resources and technology between the two brands.

“North Sails and Southern Spars have been working together for years on various projects, from the America’s Cup to the new J-70,” North Sails President Ken Read said in a statement. “A well-kept secret is North Sails Design Services, a combination of North Sails designers and proprietary computer programs, working together to answer questions traditionally identified during sea trials. I’m hopeful stronger synergy between North Sails and Southern Spars will result as we continue to provide the best products to all sailors. It’s an exciting time for North Sails and for the sport of sailing.”

Born from North’s 3Di manufacturing of sails and used exclusively in Southern Spars’ composite masts, North Thin Ply Technology has developed and commercialized a very light but strong carbon pre-preg solution, used by the aerospace market, competitive Formula 1 racing and high-end luxury products.

North Cutting Systems is two businesses — the AlphaBlade Cutting System, which provides a unique cutting solution for various industries, and the Automated Tape Laying system. The intellectual property within the group is substantial and protected by patents.

The largest company by revenue within North Technology Group is North Sails, holding the patent for 3Di, a unique composite construction process that produces high-performance sails approaching the shape holding of a rigid foil.

Oakley’s investment will assist the North Technology Group management team in growing and further developing all of its brands to ensure that the group remains at the forefront of technology for marine industry products and outside. The company will continue to be based in Milford, Conn.

“I purchased North Sails from its founder, Lowell North, over 30 years ago,” said Terry Kohler, owner of Windway Capital Corp., the previous majority shareholder in North Technology Group. “I am confident the new shareholder, Oakley, will continue Lowell’s legacy to help launch North Sails and the NTG companies into their next stage of development. We are all extremely proud to have been growing our ‘Engine Above the Deck’ concept with North Sails and Southern Spars to become the undisputed market leader in sails and composite spars. North Sails has been on every America’s Cup challenger and defender, was the sail supplier to every winning Volvo Ocean Race boat and our sails have been used by countless ocean, Grand Prix race winners and Olympic sailors. During my tenure, technology used from sailmaking led to the development of North Thin Ply Technology and North Cutting Systems. In addition, we’ve built EdgeWater Boats into one of the top brands in the outboard industry. I wish Oakley and the North Sails management team future success, as well as my pledge of commitment for continued support.”

“North Sails has been the leader in sailmaking technology for over 20 years,” North Technology Group CEO Tom Whidden said. “Our team of industry experts build sails that allow sailors to maximize their performance on the water, whether they be extreme ocean racers or casual cruisers. North Sails looks forward to working with Oakley to grow our business and carry on the tradition of providing sailors with the highest-performing products by being at the forefront of development. Terry Kohler has been a tremendously supportive shareholder for over 30 years, and we are confident Oakley will be equally supportive in the years to come. Oakley shares our obsession with technology and enthusiasm for the sport of sailing. We’re confident we are transitioning the business to a shareholder that will help North Sails reach the next level in sailmaking innovation.”

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