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Portland’s Nutcase Helmets acquired by private equity firm

Posted by on October 20th, 2016 at 8:01 am

Nutcase Helmet Design Contest Party-14

Nutcase founder Michael Morrow in 2011.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

10 years after being founded by a former Nike employee, Portland-based Nutcase Inc. has been acquired by Bravo Sports Corporation.

The move brings Nutcase under an umbrella of 23 other brands owned and/or managed by Bravo Sports that includes well-known names in the skateboarding market like Kryptonics, Sector 9, Pro-Tec, and Vision Street Wear. Bravo also owns children’s scooter brand Pulse Performance Products, holds major licensing agreements with Marvel, Nickelodeon, Disney/Pixar (and others), and holds exclusive rights to license, manufacture, and market E-Z UP tents. Bravo Sports is backed by Transom Capital Group, a private equity firm based in Los Angeles.

Nutcase was founded in 2006 by Michael Morrow. Over the past decade the company has grown steadily and has become a leading helmet brand known for their focus on eye-catching designs. After establishing a strong foothold in the U.S. market, Nutcase made a big push into Europe in 2013 and now has distributors in over 40 countries worldwide. In February of this year the company hired its first-ever CEO and a few months ago Nutcase made the decision to drop their motorsports helmets to focus exclusively on bicycling helmets.

Nutcase helmets are currently sold by a network of 35 sales reps who oversee the brand’s 600 dealers nationwide.

Nutcase will join 23 other brands in the Bravo portfolio.

Nutcase will join 23 other brands in the Bravo portfolio.

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“This acquisition allows us to continue to be at the forefront of the urban cycling revolution, while also providing our reps access to a robust network of authentic active lifestyle brands in the mountain biking and skate realm,” said Nutcase Marketing Manager Meghan Sinnott in an email to us this morning. “This is all incredibly exciting for us.”

In the press release announcing the acquisition Bravo Sports CEO Leonardo Pais said, “Protection is one of our key areas of growth… we are proud to be able to offer Nutcase as a bicycle helmet for riders of all ages worldwide.”

Nutcase Founder and President Michael Morrow said now is the perfect time to take Nutcase to the next level. “This merger will allow our product design, brand marketing, and sales organizations around the world to continue to innovate in the bicycle helmet market, with an emphasis on integrating creativity and technology to meet the safety needs and lifestyle aspirations of riders worldwide.”

Transom Capital says its approach to company management is a “value creation process” based on the acronym ARMOR which stands for: “Acquisition, Restructuring, Monitoring & Operations, and Return.” Transom says they provide operational support, “without overwhelming the management team.”

Nutcase’s 14 current employees work in an office on the second floor of the Ford Building at the corner of SE Division and 11th. Sinnott, the marketing manager, tells us, “Very few” positiosn will be elmintated and that, “Those whose jobs have become redundant are aware their positions will be changing in the next few months.”

Bravo says the company will remain in Portland.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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  • Spiffy October 20, 2016 at 8:18 am

    sad that they were doing so poorly that they had to sell… my assumption based on the lack of explanation in the article…

    I have a nutcase, but I rarely wear a helmet anymore…

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) October 20, 2016 at 8:52 am

      Isn’t it just as likely that they were acquired because they were doing so well?

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      • Spiffy October 20, 2016 at 9:33 am

        the press release reads like a marketing partnership, which is what I would expect from a company doing well but wanting to expand into unknown territory…

        there was no mention from Marrow about moving onto other projects or hobbies…

        the release really says nothing good about Nutcase, just the product they provide…

        the vibe I get is “we can save this company because it’s an accessory to our products”…

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      • Spiffy October 20, 2016 at 9:37 am

        this really says it all:

        Transom Capital says its approach to company management is a “value creation process” based on the acronym ARMOR which stands for: “Acquisition, Restructuring, Monitoring & Operations, and Return.” Transom says they provide operational support, “without overwhelming the management team.”

        basically says that Nutcase is flailing and needs to be restructured for it to survive…

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  • Chris I October 20, 2016 at 8:27 am

    What? I’m totally going to buy a John Deere branded Nutcase helmet when it comes out.

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  • Mike October 20, 2016 at 8:29 am

    I’ll start with #1: With all the corporate public relations buzzwords flowing around this, look for quick looting of financial assets and break up of what’s left. At the very minimum, maybe a move to Mexico? Stay tuned.

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  • LM October 20, 2016 at 8:58 am

    Michael and Miriam are class acts and have supported cycling initiatives for years. Congratulations and all the best to them! Small business owners are generally risk takers and the smartest will have some type of exit strategy. Hopefully the new owners will understand the creativity, synergy and expertise of the talented staff and will keep the company lean and mean in Portland.

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  • Stephen Gomez October 20, 2016 at 9:57 am

    Congratulations to Michael and Miriam for taking the risk of starting a company, creating product the market wants and providing employment for 10+ years to many people in Portland.

    I’m never surprised to read naysayers and know-it-alls on this website and this article about people succeeding with a business they put financial and sweat equity into is typical of that phenomena.

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  • Hello, Kitty
    Hello, Kitty October 20, 2016 at 10:17 am

    I am pleased to see that Nutcase is joining our corporate bliss. I look forward to their upcoming line of cross-licensed Hello, Kitty helmets.

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    • Brian October 20, 2016 at 10:19 am

      Full face helmets for downhill mountain biking. Lets break some barriers!

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  • Chris October 20, 2016 at 10:55 am

    As is often the case, many spouting off about a business they know nothing about.

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    • Spiffy October 20, 2016 at 11:44 am

      sorry for the lack of toadies… /s

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  • Edwin W. October 20, 2016 at 12:36 pm

    Selling to a private equity firm is a great way for company owners to get paid for creating a company. As for the future of that company, you might look at Pro-tec, another brand in this group as an example, for good and bad aspects of the deal.

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  • BrianC October 20, 2016 at 2:37 pm

    PrivateEquity = Asset Stripping Scoundrels…

    In my experience acquistion by a PE firm means it’s time to look for a new job. As the future focus will be to strip all value from the acquistion, load it up with debt and then hopefully dump the festering mess on some unsuspecting suckers in an IPO…

    My two cents. Your mileage may vary.

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    • Middle of the Road Guy October 21, 2016 at 9:34 am

      Not sure a small helmet maker is going to be up for an IPO any time soon.

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  • JeffS October 20, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    Good for the owners, I suppose. Maybe they’ll use the money to start something else worthwhile. Nutcase is no longer one of them. I don’t think they’ll survive as a corporate label, but what do I know. One less office full of marketing people fronting Chinese production won’t be a loss to anyone.

    BTW, “very few” of fourteen people is a sizable percentage. If Intel, or Nike laid off 10, 20, 30% of their workforce it would be a major news story.

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