Wisconsin M&A roundup

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The shareholders of First Federal Capital Corp. have overwhelmingly approved the company’s sale to Associated Banc-Corp (ASBC).
Ninety-five percent of the La Crosse-based First Federal shares represented at the company’s special meeting on Oct. 20 voted in favor of the stock and cash transaction, which is estimated at $613 million.
"We are extremely pleased with the First Federal shareholders’ strong affirmation of our companies’ combined potential," said Paul Beideman, president and chief executive officer of Green Bay-based Associated Banc-Corp.
The combined company will have approximately 300 branch offices and more than 350 ATM locations throughout Wisconsin, Illinois and Eastern Minnesota following the acquisition. The conversion of First Federal’s operating systems to Associated’s platform is scheduled for the first quarter of 2005.
"The combination of Associated and First Federal will bring tangible benefits not only to shareholders, but also to our customers. Our greatly expanded branch network, along with enhanced depth and breadth of product expertise, provide a strong catalyst to deepen customer relationships and expand our position as the preferred provider of financial services in our markets," Beideman said.
First Federal president and CEO Jack Rusch added, "As we have begun to work with Associated over the last several months, it is more evident than ever that this transaction represents a meaningful improvement in the capabilities of the combined organization. Together, we are ideally situated to serve our communities and facilitate the financial security and growth of our customers."
Quick Fuel acquires Florida refueling company
Quick Fuel Fleet Services of Milwaukee has acquired the mobile refueling business of Nortrax Equipment Co., which has offices in Tampa and West Palm Beach, Fla.
Nortrax is John Deere & Co.’s largest dealership group, with 56 locations in 15 states.
Both Quick Fuel and Nortrax have spend the past several months deploying most of their resources to fueling Florida businesses that have been ravaged by the recent hurricanes.
Ten former Nortrax employees will join Quick Fuel, which has been growing by acquiring mobile refueling companies throughout the nation.
Quick Fuel is a subsidiary of Jacobus Energy in Milwaukee. Financial terms of the acquisitions were not disclosed.
Milwaukee financial consulting company acquires Chicago firm
The Academy of Financial Services LLC of Milwaukee has acquired Chicago-based NFC Consulting Group, a consulting organization focusing on distribution strategy, specialized training and continuing education for financial services professionals.
"NFC’s established expertise and focus on continuing education and other specialty training for financial services sales professionals, both wholesalers and financial advisors, is a natural fit for us," said Rochelle Lamm, chairman and chief executive officer of The Academy of Financial Services Studies, which is located at 4425 N. Port Washington Road.
Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.
Journal Communications acquires Fox Valley newspaper
Journal Community Publishing Group has completed its acquisition of the Neenah/Menasha Independent News, a weekly newspaper covering the Fox Valley area in Wisconsin.
The Neenah/Menasha Independent News is distributed every Monday to more than 20,000 people. The New Berlin-based Journal Community Publishing Group, which is a division of Journal Communications Inc. in Milwaukee, acquired the Fox Valley paper from John Wiley.
"Neenah and Menasha are great communities, and we look forward to a long history of partnership with the businesses of Winnebago County," said Scott McElhaney, president of Journal Community Publishing Group.
Acquisition creates new company
CI Technology Group has acquired the Promotional Merchandise Management division of The Beanstalk Group and renamed it Evigna. The newly named company provides promotional products, such as logo merchandise, and custom marketing items for the pharmaceutical industry.
Evigna is an ancient Indian word that means "no barriers," according to Bill Hersch, vice president at the company’s Milwaukee office at 500 W. Brown Deer Road. The company has four employees in the Milwaukee office and plans to expand its presence here, Hersch said.
"We’re growing and building our base of new clients. We’re looking to recruit and grow by hiring at least three or four quality salespeople in the next year," Hersch told SBT.
Evigna’s Milwaukee office will be led by Margie Kozlowicz. CI Technology Group, which is based in Troy, Mich., is the promotional merchandise industry’s largest minority-owned distributor in the nation. CI Technology Group’s president and co-chairman is Shan Mehta, a native of India. Steven Lemberg is Evigna’s new CEO.
"As a certified minority-owned-and-operated business with a strong commitment to diversity, we hope to allow our clients to achieve the diversity spending goals that many of them are demanding," Lemberg said.
Evigna’s Fortune 500 customer case includes Ford Motor Co., General Electric, General Motors Co., NBC, Marriott International, The Stanley Works and Visteon.
In addition to its offices in Troy and Milwaukee, Evigna has offices in Bethesda, Md.; Dallas, Texas; Irvine, Calif.; and New York City; and Orlando, Fla. The financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.
St. Louis company acquires VPI Corp. divisions
Spartech Corp. has completed its acquisition of three divisions of VPI Corp., including the VPI Sheet Products Division in Sheboygan Falls and the VPI Contract Manufacturing Division in Manitowoc.
The other division that has been acquired is the VPI Film & Converting Division in Salisbury, Md.
Spartech estimated the cost of the acquisition at $83.5 million, which will be financed from the proceeds of a $150 million private placement of unsecured notes at 5.54 percent that closed in September. The three divisions of VPI will be integrated into St. Louis-based Spartech’s "Family of Plastic Processing Companies."
"This acquisition provides Spartech with several vertical integration opportunities for new products," said Spartech chairman, president and chief executive officer Bradley Buechler.
Universal Savings Bank acquires division from AME Financial
The Universal Savings Bank, a federally chartered bank headquartered in Milwaukee, has acquired the Wholesale Lending Division of San Diego-based AME Financial.
Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.
"This transaction is valuable for both companies. It enhances AME’s ability to focus on its core business – retail lending," said Judy Dunham, chief executive officer of AME Financial.
Universal Savings Bank has grown to assets of $166.3 million with deposits of $126.3 million.
DMC Advertising to purchase Marek Litho
Pewaukee-based DMC Advertising, a full-service direct response advertising agency, has finalized an agreement to purchase Marek Litho in Muskego.
"The acquisition of Marek Litho is a natural fit for us as we try to expand our agency to be a total turn-key organization," said Jeff Nowak, chief executive officer of DMC. "We currently offer our clients top-notch creative, production, database services, fulfillment and media buying, all under one roof. We are really excited about this acquisition because it will enable us to see our projects to completion by allowing us to offer a vastly expanded full-line of quality in-house printing that we can oversee in an efficient manner."
All of Marek Litho’s printing equipment, including its eight-color press, will be moved to DMC’s current Pewaukee office, located at 1 Creative Way, and the purchased company will be renamed MK Litho.
Paul Marek, former owner of Marek Litho will serve as vice president of sales for the new company and Nowak will serve as president. Marek’s current 20 employees will be invited to be a part of the new company.
"After being in the printing business for 35 years, my family is excited about DMC purchasing our company so we can become a part of a full-service marketing organization," Marek said. "We are also pleased that our staff will be staying with us and feel that this acquisition poses many opportunities for our current clients who will now able be able to utilize DMC’s marketing expertise. It’s truly a win-win situation for all."
Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.
Church & Chapel acquires Ritter-Larsen Bros. Funeral Homes
Wisconsin-based Church & Chapel Funeral Service has purchased seven Ritter-Larsen Bros Funeral Homes in the Milwaukee area.
Ted Larsen, owner of Church & Chapel, acquired the funeral homes from The Hamilton Group of San Diego, Calif., for an undisclosed price. The new funeral homes will add to Larsen’s Church & Chapel services in New Berlin and Waukesha. Other members of Larsen’s family had sold the seven funeral homes to The Hamilton Group five years ago.
"Although a greater percentage of our funerals are held in area churches and chapels, this expansion will offer more options to area families," Larsen said.
Journal Communications acquires Green Bay TV station
The Journal Broadcast Group of Journal Communications Inc. has completed its purchase of WGBA-TV, Channel 26, the NBC affiliate in Green Bay. Journal Broadcast Group also assumed an existing local marketing agreement between the station and UPN affiliate WACY-TV, Channel 32, in Appleton.
The Milwaukee-based company acquired the Green Bay station from Aries Telecommunication Corp, a wholly owned subsidiary of DP&K Inc., for $43.3 million.
"We are very pleased to mark the beginning of Journal Communications’ television ownership in the Green Bay-Appleton market," said Steven J. Smith, chairman and chief executive officer of Journal Communications, the parent company of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, WTMJ-Channel 4, WTMJ-AM 620 and WKTI-FM 94.5 in Milwaukee. "We will continue to seek other acquisition opportunities that meet our disciplined financial criteria as well as our strategy of growth through the purchase of broadcast stations in mid-sized markets with diversified, growing economies."
The company intends to move "several of its veteran broadcast personnel" to the Green Bay station in the near future, according to Doug Kiel, president of Journal Communications and CEO of Journal Broadcast Group.
Kohler buys resort at St. Andrews in Scotland
Kohler Co. has purchased the Old Course Hotel Golf Resort and Spa in St. Andrews, Scotland, and Golf Resorts International Ltd. from the Kosaido Co. of Japan.
The sale price was not disclosed, but PGA.com reported it was $62 million. The 134-room Old Course Hotel is located on the 17th hole of the Old Course in St. Andrews. The Old Course is considered the birthplace of golf has been the site of 26 British Opens and will host the 2005 British Open. The course and five others comprising St. Andrews Links are managed and maintained by St. Andrews Links Trust.
With the purchase, Kohler Co. will own and operate the Old Course Hotel, the nearby Dukes Golf Course and the spa and two restaurants within the hotel.
"For years, as our fledgling skills have grown in the hospitality industry, we have looked nationally and internationally for an opportunity to expand our resort business," said Herbert V. Kohler, chairman and chief executive officer of Kohler Co. "Five weeks ago, this opportunity was brought to our attention. It looks like we found the perfect fit."
Kohler Co. also owns Blackwolf Run in Kohler, the site of the 1998 U.S. Women’s Open, and Whistling Straits in Haven, the site of this year’s PGA Championship. In addition, the Kohler-based company owns the American Club, the only AAA Five Diamond resort in the Midwest, and manufactures kitchen and bath products, engines and generators.
"There is an opportunity to upgrade and expand the (Old Course) hotel along with its spa through the integration of some of our world famous products and services," said Alice Edland, group executive for hospitality and real estate for Kohler Co. "The Dukes Course grounds will also be evaluated to determine possible renovation opportunities including the historic Creighton mansion, something too beautiful not to make full use of."
Nor-Cote acquires Hudson firm
Nor-Cote International, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Fortune Diversified Industries, announced today it has signed an agreement to purchase Hudson, Wis.-based Ink Source, Inc., for an undisclosed sum. Nor-Cote has plans to consolidate operations in Crawfordsville, Ind.
"Ink Source specializes in market segments that Nor-Cote has not focused on over the years. We believe the combined entities are a strong force to be reckoned with," said Herm Haffner, chief executive officer of Nor-Cote International.
"The acquisition of Ink Source is viewed as a very positive step," said Mike Sloan, president of Ink Source. "We can now focus on our core markets and utilize Nor-Cote’s resources to promote, sell, manufacture and service our clients."
October 29, 2004, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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