The Leatherman Tool Group (LTG) has announced that it is divesting the German Ledlenser brand, which it acquired in April 2011. The closing is expected to take place by the first week of December. The new owner of Ledlenser is Afinum, an 18-year-old German private equity firm that owned Sigg Bottles in Switzerland until 2003. It just exited an investment in the Lausanne-based Let's Go Fitness Group.
At the same time, Leatherman has set up a new subsidiary, Leatherman Europe, with an office and warehouse in another German city, Ratingen. It is headed up by Kevin Hamil, who has lived and worked in Germany before and has been the company's director of international sales since 2010. His position is being taken over by Guy Rossi, a Brazilian manager who worked in LTG's international division.
Leatherman Europe will start taking care of orders and shipments all over Europe from March 1. To ensure that there will be no disruption in operations during and after the ownership transfer, Ledlenser will continue to operate as the primary distributor for Leatherman in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy, where it has its own sales operations, while Leatherman will operate as the primary distributor of Ledlenser in the Americas.
The two brands will continue to have joint or separate distributors in some other markets. For example, they have distinct distributors in the U.K. In France, Ledlenser's distributor, GMT, picked up Leatherman last year, and it will continue to sell both brands. Both lines are in the portfolios of about 15 distributors in small markets in Eastern Europe.
Based in Portland, Oregon, LTG is best known for its original multipurpose tools while Ledlenser, headquartered in Solingen, Germany, is known for having produced the first hand-held LED lights.
After its acquisition by LTG seven years ago, Ledlenser expanded its product ranges beyond traditional headlamps and flashlights distributed in electrical stores and moved into new target markets including specific industrial categories and the outdoor market.
In general, Leathermann wants to work directly and more closely with select outdoor retailers in Europe, cleaning up the distribution channels as much as possible.
On the other hand, Tim Leatherman, the 70-year-old founder of LTG who is now the company's chairman, remains a strong believer in U.S. manufacturing at its own factory in Portland as a means of driving innovation and guaranteeing the quality of the products. He apparently wants the company to maintain this vision while gradually handing over responsibilities to his son Lee.
A difference of vision on this point was said to have been one of the reasons for the break-up with Ledlenser, which gets its products made at its own factory in Yangjiang, China.
Leatherman is currently run by Ben Rivera, a veteran of the company who was appointed as its chief executive two years ago.