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KLAFS says”ya vol!” to acquisition offer from Kohler Co.

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The sauna world got more synergistic yesterday with the announcement that Wisconsin US based Kohler Co. has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire KLAFS, a German manufacturer of saunas, steam rooms, and other hydrothermal features, from the Egeria Group.

Expanding wellness portfolio

Just those three words exude “shareholder value.” As within the wellness movement, “sauna” is becoming a leading noun (a place we go) and verb (a thing we do). Analysts and senior executives recognize that more and more people bring wellness into their lives health club/spas are raising the bar with better saunas. At home, more and more people are building saunas within their home gyms, bathrooms, and backyards.

Companies – big companies – are positioning themselves to capitalize on this “trend.” (For those readers to SaunaTimes, we recognize that this trend has been decades in the making). So, like Pearl Jam moving from playing clubs to playing stadiums, we are seeing the “big boys” expand their “wellness portfolio” by getting into the sauna space, and collecting their fees along the way.

As we remember, just a few months ago, Sauna360 agreed to be acquired by Masco Corporation (NYSE: MAS), a global leader in the design, manufacture and distribution of branded home improvement and building products… including Delta faucets.

These recent deals has folks in the sauna industry thinking: who else wants to expand their wellness portfolio? Could the Moen Faucet acquisition team be throwing water on the rocks right now with Finland based Harvia Oyj?

Simulating mergers and acquisitions between a kitchen bath faucet company and a sauna company (venek’s sold separately).

US green pastures

Here in the US, most people, even those within the sauna industry, may confuse the name KLAFS with a pastry company or an acronym short cut on social media. And for Kohler, that’s ok, because Kohler is very entrenched in their home country of United States. KLAFS stands to grow like Wisconsin cool season turf grass here in the United States thanks to Kohler’s sales and distribution strength, alongside their signature faucets, showers, sinks, toilets, bidets and more. (think mega trade show booth).

The 7th at Whistling Straits is as gorgeous as lakeside holes can get (yet currently without a sauna on the shoreline) photo: Kohler.com

Global synergies

The KLAFS / Kohler deal reminds this food industry veteran of his former employer Nestlé’s purchase of the global distribution rights for Starbucks away from home. Nestlé couldn’t give away their coffee in the US. And Starbucks couldn’t get their coffee on the thousands of Nestlé DSD (direct store delivery) trucks through all of Africa, Europe, Asia, etc.

Here we have a similar synergy KLAFS may be well known in Europe, designing commercial saunas and spas, but here in the US, well, Kohler now has their foot in the sauna “wellness” space without having to start from scratch.

On paper, the deal looks like one of those where you smack your forehead and say “why didn’t I see that coming!” But I saw this one coming. I just didn’t think it’d be KLAFS. I predicted that it’d have been a Finnish company. So, “ya vol” to German based KLAFS and the investment company Egeria Group, whose executives may be spotted this Christmas on the Swiss ski slopes, smiling ear to ear while slaloming down the wellness hill.

Official press release

Here is the press release from Kohler and below:

German-based company manufactures and sells premium saunas, sanariums, infrared cabins, steam baths, and pool solutions

KOHLERWis. – December 4, 2023 – Global kitchen and bath leader Kohler has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire KLAFS – a market-leading manufacturer of saunas, steam rooms, and other hydrothermal features – from the Egeria Group. The agreement was signed on Dec. 1, and is still subject to customary closing conditions. Final closing is expected in the first quarter of 2024. Financial details of the transaction are not being disclosed.

KLAFS CEO Phillip Rock and CFO Jens Friedrich will continue in their leadership roles, and the company will join Kohler’s Luxury Brands division with other high-design brands including ANN SACKS, KALLISTA, Robern, and Kast Concrete Basins.

Headquartered in Schwäbisch Hall, Germany, KLAFS develops, designs, manufactures, and sellinnovative premium wellness products designed to enhance personal spa experiences including saunas, sanariums, infrared cabins, steam baths, pools, and related wellness equipment and accessories. In addition, the company provides consultation and planning services. KLAFS sells its products through a vast direct-to-consumer showroom network that primarily spans across Europe to both residential and commercial (incl. hotels, fitness centers, day spas, etc.) clients.

KLAFS employs 850 associates across locations in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Poland, Netherlands, U.K., Spain, and Mexico.

Quotes

“As a privately held, global company celebrating our 150th anniversary, Kohler has always embraced a relentless pursuit of providing exceptional products, services, and experiences for our customers,” said David Kohler, Chair and CEO of Kohler Co., who represents the fourth generation of Kohler family leadership. “KLAFS is an international market leader with a stellar reputation that shares our passion for innovation and delighting customers. We look forward to welcoming the KLAFS organization to Kohler and, together, driving continued growth in sauna and spa solutions.”

Hannes Rumer, Partner and Managing Director at EGERIA in Munich: “Over the last years we have worked with CEO Phillip Rock and the entire team at KLAFS on transforming the company from a strong player in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland to a pan-European market leader for premium sauna, spa, and wellness products. It has been a great entrepreneurial team-up and we are especially proud of the successful roll-out of KLAFS’ exciting product portfolio in Northern and Western Europe, both organically and through several acquisitions. Kohler is the ideal partner to maintain the high-end positioning of the brand.”

Phillip Rock, CEO of KLAFS: “With their commitment and dedication, our employees have made KLAFS a globally recognized brand. With Kohler behind us, we will open new doors and take our success story to a new level.”

Houlihan Lokey (M&A), Menold Bezler (Legal), and RSM Ebner Stolz (Financial & Tax) are advising Egeria. Eversheds Sutherland (Legal) and Deloitte (Financial, Tax & HR) are advising Kohler.

About Kohler Co.

Founded in 1873 and headquartered in Kohler, Wisconsin, Kohler Co. is one of America’s oldest and largest privately held companies comprised of more than 40,000 associates. With more than 60 manufacturing locations worldwide, Kohler is a global leader in the design, innovation and manufacture of kitchen and bath products; luxury cabinetry, tile and lighting; engines, generators, and clean energy solutions; and owner/operator of two, five-star hospitality and golf resort destinations in Kohler, Wisconsin, and St. Andrews, Scotland. Kohler’s Whistling Straits golf course hosted the 43rd Ryder Cup in 2021. The company also develops solutions to address pressing issues, such as clean water and sanitation, for underserved communities around the world to enhance the quality of life for current and future generations. For more details, please visit kohlercompany.com

About KLAFS

KLAFS has been creating places of relaxation for body and soul since 1928. Time and again, the company manages to surprise with groundbreaking innovations – such as the space-saving sauna KLAFS S1, which transforms from the size of a wall cabinet to a fully functional sauna within 20 seconds at the push of a button. Thanks to this innovative strength, KLAFS advanced from what was once a small family business to a global industry leader. Today, more than 850 employees work to meet – and exceed – the ever-increasing demands of customers. From small private sauna rooms to luxurious hotel spas. And they do this all over the world, with expert advice from carefully trained technical consultants and on-site service from experienced teams. As a trendsetter in the sauna, pool and spa industry, KLAFS continuously invests in research and development, for example to further increase the energy efficiency of its products.

About EGERIA

Egeria is an independent pan-European investment company founded in 1997, which focuses on medium-sized companies. (they) invest in healthy companies with an enterprise value between EUR 50 million and EUR 350 million. Egeria believes in building great businesses together with entrepreneurial management teams (Boldly Building Together). Egeria Private Equity Funds hold investments in 16 companies, Egeria Evergreen has investments in 7 companies. Egeria’s portfolio companies have a combined turnover of c. EUR 2.5 billion and employ close to 13,000 people. Other activities are Egeria Real Estate Investments and Egeria Real Estate Development. In 2018, Egeria has launched EgeriaDO, a corporate giving program sponsoring projects in the fields of the arts, culture, and social objectives.

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Final note(s)

Extra Kudos to the folks at KLAFS for properly identifying infrared as “infrared cabins.” Let this be an inspiration and role model for all in the sauna industry!

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