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Berkshire Partners Completes Toy Deal

Investment in Melissa & Doug gives the Boston firm a control stake in the company.

Berkshire Partners completed an acquisition of Melissa & Doug LLC, buying the toymaker from private equity firm Metalmark Partners. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Mergers & Acquisitions
first reported on the transaction in the second week of December, when the deal received early termination under the Hart Scott Rodino waiting period.

Inquiries into Metalmark, which has owned the company for roughly three and a half years, were not immediately returned by press time.
 
Berkshire is investing out of its 2006-vintage, $3.1 billion Berkshire Fund VII.

Berkshire principal EJ Whelan, a father of a four- and a six-year old, notes that he was already familiar with the company when the firm was first approached about a possible deal. The draw for Berkshire was Melissa & Doug's ability to distinguish itself in a crowded toy market with a focus on innovation and product safety.

"The company is different from the Hasbros and Mattels of the world, which are increasingly entertainment driven [and] tie their toy releases to movies and events," Whelan says. "Melissa & Doug are making toys that kids have played with for the past 100 years. They have a real passion for their product and that resonates with parents and grandparents."

In terms of growth, Whelan cites that Berkshire will look to sustain the momentum the business has built under Metalmark. The company, in the past few years, has focused on innovation within its existing product categories and has also sealed a few tuck-in acquisitions. Its most recent deal was the acquisition of Princess Soft Toys, which augmented Melissa & Doug's reach in the plush category. The company also recently acquired the rights to distribute Sunny Patch branded products within the US and the Caribbean.

Berkshire has a history in the consumer space, previously backing Carter's and Bare Escentuals, among other consumer names. The firm currently owns jeansmaker Citizens of Humanity and Canadian retailer Aritzia.

The Wilton, Connecticut-based company, headed by Melissa and Doug Bernstein, has approximately 200 employees. The namesake founders, who serve as co-CEOs of the toymaker, are rolling over an equity stake in the company as part of the deal.

Goldman Sachs and BofA Merrill Lynch advised the sellers on the transaction.

 

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