Vestar sells safety co to Bear Stearns for $385m

After an eight-year hold, Vestar exits its safety-wear portfolio company to the private equity arm of Bear Stearns.

New York-based Bear Stearns Merchant Banking, the private equity arm of the financial services firm, today announced its purchase of Aearo, a maker of protective wear, from New York private equity firm Vestar Capital Partners for $385 million (€312 million), including the assumption of $210 million in debt.


Vestar purchased Aearo in 1995 through a management buyout from publicly traded Cabot, a chemicals and metals manufacturer for $205 million. At the time, the division had roughly $200 million in sales.


Aearo currently has $327 in sales, according to a press release.


Members of Aearo management, led by chairman, president and chief executive officer Michael McLain, will make a ‘substantial capital investment’ in the company, giving them a roughly one-quarter stake, according to the release. Vestar will retain a 10 percent stake in the company.


Aearo makes goggles, earmuffs, earplugs, respirators, hard hats, gloves, face shields, communication headsets, first aid kits, safety clothing and safety shoes, among other safety products.


In February 1998, the Aearo named McLain the company’s new head, replacing John Curtin. McLain was formerly the head of DowBrands, a maker of household products. Several months after assuming his top spot, McLain reduced employees and discontinued some products lines to improve profitability.


Douglas Korn, senior managing director of Bear Stearns Merchant Banking, led the acquisition.


Last July, Bear Stearns announced a strategic partnership with Giuliani Capital Partners, a firm run by the former mayor of New York, to make investments in the security and public-safety sectors.


Bear Stearns Merchant Banking is currently managing a $1.5 billion fund.