You might not have heard the name Wolverine Worldwide, Inc. before, but make no mistake—you definitely know its products. And based on its current trajectory, the company is taking over the footwear industry one sure step at a time.
Founded by the Krause family in 1903, the Rockford, Mich.-based company now owns 13 shoe brands, including Keds, Merrell, Hush Puppies, Saucony, Sperry Top-Sider and Stride Rite Children’s Group, and is the licenser of Harley-Davison, Caterpillar and Patagonia Footwear. The company also employs more than 8,500 people globally.
Its 2012 acquisition of the Performance and Lifestyle Group from Collective Brands put the company on the map in a big way. Not only did the acquisition almost double the size of Wolverine Worldwide, it also showed its tremendous creativity and vision. With CEO and President Blake Krueger at the helm, the complex Collective Brands acquisition grew Wolverine into the third-largest footwear company in the world, next to giants Nike, Inc. and Adidas AG.
The journey to that acquisition began with San Francisco-based private equity firm Blum Capital Partners. Blum Capital had been a longtime investor in Collective Brands, which consisted of Payless ShoeSource and the Performance and Lifestyle Group, and wanted to buy the Payless division out of the company. However, due to shareholder issues and tax implications, Collective Brands had to be sold as one entity. Introduced by R.W. Baird, Wolverine Worldwide started a dialogue with Blum Capital, which then brought in San Francisco-based private equity firm Golden Gate Capital as a third partner. In 2011, the consortium’s first bid for Collective Brands was rebuffed. A year later, the consortium finally won the company during an auction process, agreeing to pay about $2 billion.