Blyth Acquires Walter Drake for $53 Million

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Blyth Inc. continued its expansion strategy yesterday, announcing that it acquired a 100 percent interest in Walter Drake, a direct marketer of value-priced household products, for $53 million.


Walter Drake products are marketed under two main catalog titles and Web sites: Walter Drake (www.wdrake.com) and The Home Marketplace (www.thehomemarketplace.com). Walter Drake merchandise includes household gifts, gadgets and convenience products, personalized items, home decor and holiday cards. The Home Marketplace features kitchen and storage products along with general household maintenance items.


Walter Drake Co.'s annual net sales are $80 million.


"This is a great example of how strategic buyers will pay above-average market multiples for a business that has great growth prospects, fit and synergies," said Larry West, president of West Companies, New York, a consulting intermediary for catalog acquisitions.


West represented Walter Drake in 2001 when the company was auctioned in a bankruptcy proceeding. Walter Drake had been owned by Foster & Gallagher.


"The synergies are obvious, ranging from customer lists between Miles Kimball and Walter Drake as well as order processing and administrative functions," West said. "Another reason the deal was done was to acquire the merchandising and marketing expertise in Walter Drake that is being left in operation in Colorado Springs. Drake has obviously proven its growth potential, going from about $60 million in revenue in 2001 to an estimated annualized revenue of $80 million in 2003."


Blyth, Greenwich, CT, is a home decor and home fragrance company that sells via multiple channels of distribution in North America, Europe and Australia. It designs, manufactures and markets a line of candles and home fragrance products including scented candles, potpourri and other fragranced products, as well as tabletop illumination products and chafing fuel.


Blyth acquired Miles Kimball Co., a catalog/Internet business, in April 2003. Miles Kimball consists of Christmas Cards by Miles Kimball, Miles Kimball and Exposures. Product lines include gifts, household gadgets and home furnishings.


Blyth intends to maintain the Miles Kimball and Walter Drake merchandising teams, catalogs and product lines independently in Oshkosh, WI, and Colorado Springs, CO, respectively, while consolidating operations. The company will integrate nearly all of Walter Drake's fulfillment, warehousing, personalization services, database management and administration operations into those of Miles Kimball in Oshkosh and Las Vegas during the next several months.


Miles Kimball president Mike Muoio will take over operation of Walter Drake.


Calls to Miles Kimball and Walter Drake were referred to Blyth's Greenwich location, and messages left at Blyth were not returned.


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