Middleby CEO Selim A. Bassoul bought his first Viking range for his home about 12 years ago. Over the years, Bassoul, top executive of the maker of commercial cooking equipment in Elgin, thought about acquiring the maker of high-end cooking ranges.
The timing was not right, until recently. The Middleby Corp. announced plans Wednesday to acquire Viking Range Corp. for $380 million in cash. Bassoul's belief of a recovery in the U.S. housing market and Viking's willingness to sell are two key factors in the sale. Headquartered in Greenwood, Miss., Viking has approximately $200 million in annual revenues. The company is a leading manufacturer of premium residential cooking ranges, ovens and kitchen appliances. "This was an offensive approach, not a defensive one," Bassoul said in a conference call Wednesday morning.
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"Viking is a premier brand name. It will provide us with a new platform. We don't have products in the residential arena," Middleby Corporate Treasurer Martin Lindsay told the Daily Herald.
"To build a new platform, you need a strong brand name, like Viking," said Lindsay, a resident of Arlington Heights.
Bassoul said the synergies between the two companies are key.
Viking was owned by a group of investors, including Warren Stephens and the company's founder, Fred Carl Jr. Carl, a former homebuilder, founded Viking in the 1980s after finding that some of his customers wanted restaurant-style ranges. Bassoul said Carl will continue to run the Viking business and that Middleby does not plan to close the factories in Greenwood. The acquisition will bring on about 750 employees, 90 percent of which will work in Mississippi.
Bassoul said he has been talking with Carl for "a while."
"I have been chasing Viking and Fred for a long time," Bassoul said.
"The acquisition of Viking allows us to integrate our own patented technologies that will have a huge appeal to consumers for their residential kitchens. These technologies include speed cooking, induction and truvection," he added.
In addition, the design that Viking brings to the kitchen will benefit Middleby. "We will use their design technology -- it's beautiful," Bassoul said. "We don't spend a lot of time making our (commercial) equipment look pretty," he said.
Bassoul added the Viking brand will fit well into Middleby's brands, which include TurboChef, Jade and MagiKitch'n.
Viking, which is becoming more popular in Brazil, should be able to expand its sales in Asia and the Middle East as well as in the U.S., Bassoul said. About six years ago, before the U.S. housing dip, Viking sales were about $400 million a year, about twice the recent pace, he said.
"We are combining leading commercial cooking companies with a leading residential cooking company. We are so excited to take what we've learned from the professional chef and bring it to the residential chef," he said. "Together we have deep experience in the design and manufacture of ranges, ovens and cooktops, and through combined efforts we will be able to achieve meaningful cost reductions and production efficiencies, while improving the design and performance of the ranges and ovens."