SWANDER PACE BUYS TOTES-ISOTONER FROM BAIN

Byline: Wendy Hessen

NEW YORK — Don’t expect executives of Swander Pace Capital to get caught without an umbrella in those San Francisco rains.
That’s because the investment firm, based in the city by the bay, has agreed to acquire all of the equity of Totes-Isotoner Corp. from Boston-based Bain Capital, which has owned Totes since 1994. Known for its prominence in the umbrella and rainwear business, Totes was merged in 1997 with another Bain entity, gloves and slippers maker Aris-Isotoner. The combined companies, Totes-Isotoner Corp., has annual revenues of about $300 million, according to a spokesman.
Terms of the deal, which is expected to close by the end of the month, were not disclosed and executives from Swander Pace and Bain declined to discuss it.
Doug Gernert, president and chief executive officer of Totes-Isotoner, based in Cincinnati, said in a statement: “We have built a world-class company in terms of products and services for our customers and consumers. Fall 2000 was our strongest [season] yet for cold-weather accessories and slippers. As such, we have been exploring several options to fund the next phase of growth opportunities for our company. Swander Pace has an excellent record of investing and growing their portfolio companies and we look forward to our partnership with them in the years ahead.”
Swander Pace focuses on consumer-oriented companies across a wide variety of product sectors, managing more than $300 million in equity capital. The company generally concentrates on firms with up to $400 million in revenues. Its portfolio ranges from Nonni’s Food Co. and American Hard Cider Co., to the beauty, health and wellness e-tailer More.com.
Totes has been praying for rain since 1942, when its predecessor, the SoLo Marx Co., introduced the first rubber boots designed to protect shoes from rain and snow. In 1961, the company obtained the first patent in the U.S. for a working folding umbrella, which was introduced under the Totes banner in 1970.
Since then, Totes has repeatedly expanded — or more appropriately, scaled down its umbrella offerings to include items such as the Pocket Wonder, which is about the size of a cell phone. Other products include rainwear, hats, slipper socks and cold-weather accessories, largely for department-store distribution. Its lower-priced Chromatics and Watercolors lines are sold in various mass-market channels, such as supermarkets and drugstores.