Majority of Hal Leonard shares sold to private equity firm

Investment aimed at strategic expansion

One of Hal Leonard's educational publications.

Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:14 pm

Milwaukee-based Hal Leonard Corp. today announced the majority of the company has been acquired from its management team by California private equity firm Seidler Equity Partners.

Sheet Music Direct’s PlayAlong app features music for 17 different instruments in a variety of genres.
Sheet Music Direct’s PlayAlong app features music for 17 different instruments in a variety of genres.

Hal Leonard is the world’s largest educational music publisher and a leading songbook and sheet music publisher, with a catalog of more than 200,000 titles. It has also innovated by developing its own digital music tools and acquiring others. Its products are sold across the globe at music stores and through distributors.

Chief executive officer Keith Mardak and his wife Mary Vandenberg, who is also a shareholder, arranged the equity investment as part of their estate planning and because they wanted to strengthen the company’s finances to foster future expansion, the company said in a release.

The senior management, which acquired Hal Leonard in 1985 from the founders, will retain minority ownership in the deal, and have entered multi-year contracts to stay with the company.

“I joined Hal Leonard in 1970 and acquired the company in 1985, along with some managers as minority partners,” Mardak said in a letter to employees. “We’ve had tremendous growth since the time I started, but I think the best years are still ahead of us. Seidler Equity Partners are an absolutely great group of people.”

Seidler’s investment will allow Hal Leonard to grow strategically and speed its expansion. Hal Leonard has already been in growth mode, acquiring both music technology company Tunessence and play-along company Music Minus One in May.

Mardak has grown Hal Leonard from sales of less than $1 million in 1970 to more than $173 million this year. The company has more than 500 employees at 10 offices around the world, including an administration, production and distribution facility in Winona, Minnesota, where Hal Leonard was founded in 1947.

“We’re excited about what Seidler brings to our board of directors,” said Larry Morton, president of Hal Leonard. “Their partnership model will help us expand our global reach and digital delivery platforms while recognizing that the success of Hal Leonard has been built by a cohesive team of incredibly talented and dedicated employees. Seidler really understands the value and importance of our people. That, along with their enthusiasm for our industry, should be a great fit to take us to even greater heights.”

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Molly Dill
Molly Dill, former BizTimes Milwaukee managing editor.