Platinum Equity thinks its portfolio companies are just precious. The investment firm typically seeks to acquire private companies, public firms that want to become private, and units that large corporations are looking to divest; these enterprises usually have established brands and customer bases, and most importantly, recurring revenues. Platinum Equity also looks for acquisitions as strategic add-ons to its portfolio companies, which have operations worldwide. Founder and CEO Tom Gores, who started Platinum Equity in 1995, is the brother of Alec Gores, who founded another investment firm, Gore Technology Group (now The Gores Group).
Platinum Equity has made approximately 115 acquisitions since its founding. Its current portfolio includes holdings in about 30 companies. It focuses on such sectors as manufacturing, distribution, technology services, and communications. The company started off 2012 with the acquisition of regional trucking and logistics outfit Keen Transport. It followed up that deal with the purchase of DMS Health Technologies from Otter Tail Corporation.
In early 2011 it acquired distressed firms ECKA Granules (metal powder manufacturing) and Schutt Sports (sports equipment). Later that year Platinum Equity was involved in a recapitalization of Keystone Automotive Operations that netted it a majority stake in the firm; it previously was the car parts supplier's largest bond holder. Other 2011 acquisitions included Active Aero Group, a provider of on-demand ground and air transporation; utility equipment fleet operator NESCO, and Quark, the maker of desktop publishing software.
In another big 2011 deal, CEO Gores bought the Detroit Pistons NBA franchise for an undisclosed sum. The deal included Palace Sports & Entertainment, which owns Pistons home arena and entertainment center The Palace of Auburn Hills. After the acquisition, Gores ousted Pistons CEO Alan Ostfield, replacing him with Platinum Equity partners Robert Wentworth and Philip Norment.
Platinum Equity kept it in the family when it teamed with The Gores Group to acquire music and video distributor Alliance Entertainment from Source Interlink in 2010. Also that year Platinum Equity bought inland marine transportation outfit American Commercial Lines for approximately $777 million.
Building its information technology services holdings, Platinum Equity acquired Pomeroy IT Solutions and OAO Technology Solutions in 2009 and 2010, respectively, and combined the two firms. It also bought telecommunications software firm Ulticom for some $90 million in 2010.
Among the other transactions that Platinum Equity closed in 2009 were a majority stake in Canvas Systems, a provider of used IT equipment; and, from Oshkosh Corporation, The Geesink Norba Group, a Netherlands-based manufacturer of refuse collection vehicles (since rebranded GEESINKNORBA). Less successfully, though, Platinum Equity lost a bid to take control of auto parts maker Delphi.
Also in 2009 Platinum Equity acquired the struggling San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper from Copley Press. The Union-Tribune, like many metropolitan newspapers, suffered losses from a major drop in advertising in recent years. Shortly after the deal closed, the paper announced plans to lay off 18% of its staff. In 2011 Platinum Equity sold the newspaper for $110 million to prominent San Diego real estate developer Doug Manchester. – less