Vista Outside enters the fishing trade with $192.5 million acquisition

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Anoka-based Vista Outdoor is paying $192.5 million to acquire Simms Fishing Products, a premium brand that can serve as an anchor for its new fishing segment.

The move, announced Wednesday, precedes a plan to split the company into separate outdoor products and ammunition companies next year.

Vista’s goal is to become the acquirer of choice in the outdoor recreation space by making eight acquisitions over the past two to three years. Two big deals in the last month — Simms and Fox Racing — further cement Vista’s reputation as a desirable owner of outdoor brands.

“Simms is a perfect fit for our diversified portfolio of leading, iconic outdoor brands,” said Chris Metz, CEO of Vista Outdoor, in a press release. “Simms expands our core addressable market into the highly attractive fishing category with a premium, innovative brand with significant growth potential.”

Simms Fishing Products is based in Bozeman, Mont. and makes waders; waders and other footwear; Outerwear and other technical clothing and gear for anglers.

In early July, Vista announced it would buy Fox Racing for $540 million plus an additional $50 million in potential milestone payments. Fox makes protective gear and apparel for mountain bike and motocross riders and matches Vista’s existing action sports brands such as Bell, Giro, Blackburn and others.

None of Vista’s other outdoor product brands were in the fishing category. The existing brands were mostly technical clothing and backpacks, outdoor cooking equipment, drinking products and more recently golf simulators and starting monitors.

According to a report by The Insight Partners, the global fishing gear industry was valued at US$24 billion in 2021 and is projected to grow to US$32 billion by 2028.

Simms employs 170 people and is expected to generate approximately $110 million in annual sales. According to the press release, Simms’ annual sales grew at a compound annual rate of 15% from 2019 to 2021 and are expected to grow faster in 2022.

“We really like the fishing category in general, it has great participation rates,” said Metz. “We looked at a whole bunch of potential first-time entrants in the fish market, and Simms was at the top of the list. … It suits us perfectly.”

Vista plans to split the company into an outdoor products company that will include Fox Racing and Simms, and a to-be-named ammo company anchored by Anoka-based Federal that will include other ammo brands like Remington, Speer and IHK.

When the split was announced, the company said the outdoor products company would be moving its headquarters to Bozeman, which appealed to Simms executives.

“The decision to locate the headquarters of the soon to be divested Outdoor Products segment in Bozeman has made our decision even easier,” said KC Walsh, Simms executive chairman, in a press release. “It will reinforce Simms’ ‘Made in Montana’ legacy and strong commitment to our local community.”

Simms Chief Executive Casey Sheahan will continue to lead the fishing brand. Walsh becomes a strategic advisor and advocate for conservation and government affairs.

The deal for Simms and Fox Racing is expected to close in Vista’s second quarter of fiscal 2023, which ends Sept. 30.

Vista also released its first-quarter results after the market close on Wednesday. The company made $126 million, or $2.16 per share. Revenue rose 21% year over year to $802.6 million.

Sporting Products Group, which includes Federal and Remington, increased its revenue 40% to $511 million, while Outdoor Products Group’s revenue fell 2% to $292 million.

Shares of the company rose 2.65% on Thursday.