Saying it was part of the Miller family’s long-term plan, Newmar Corp. President Matt Miller said he first approached Winnebago Industries President and CEO Michael Happe in April this year to see whether the “Flying W” would be interested in acquiring the 51-year-old motorhome manufacturer based in Nappanee, Ind.
After each side performed its due diligence, an agreement was signed Sunday (Sept. 16) in which Winnebago will acquire Newmar for approximately $344 million — $270 million in cash and a fixed amount of 2 million shares of Winnebago Industries stock. It’s expected the deal will be finalized by the end of Winnebago’s fiscal 2020 first quarter in November.
From inside Newmar’s one-year-old customer service center on the east side of Nappanee, Miller and Happe sat down with RVBUSINESS.com on Monday to discuss what led to the acquisition and what it means for both companies, its dealer base and its end customers.
Miller said his family was “excited to see this happen” and that it was always their intention to sell the company, which was founded in 1968 by Marvin Miller and Marvin Newcomer. Matt Miller’s father Mahlon Miller — they are no relation to Marvin — acquired 51% of Newmar Corp. in 1984, and the former Holiday Rambler president, now in retirement, would purchase the remaining 49% of the company in 1990.
Matt Miller in 2006 was named president of Newmar, a position he will continue to hold after the Winnebago acquisition is completed. Miller will also become a vice president of Winnebago, and serve both on Happe’s executive team and as a strategic advisor to Winnebago’s Class A motorhome operations.
“When we went into this we wanted to find someone who was aligned culturally with what we do and how we do it because my family lives in this Nappanee community and it was very important to us,” Miller said. “Winnebago has a long, good history of taking care of their customer. I grew up in the industry and I remember when I was a little kid every motorhome was a Winnebago and we’d be fighting against that perception and trying to get our fair place in the marketplace. But we’ve always respected Winnebago and think they’ve been a great company.”
Newmar’s 1,060 employees and manufacturing and customer service facilities in Nappanee will join a Winnebago company that currently boasts some 4,600 employees working at nine campuses in five states, including four in Iowa, two in Indiana, one in Florida, and one in Oregon with an executive office in Minneapolis, Minn. Among those operations are Grand Design Recreational Vehicles, acquired in 2016, and its Winnebago-branded towables division, both located in Middlebury, Ind., as well as Chris-Craft Corp., the Sarasota, Fla.-based recreational boat builder acquired in 2018.
For his part, Happe said Newmar is a natural fit for Winnebago, which is now in its 61st year as one of the industry’s most iconic brands, in several ways including its luxury motorhome lineup, a segment that, for the most part, the Forest City, Iowa-based manufacturer was not playing in.
“It’s a great moment for Winnebago Industries and I’m confident that over time it’ll be a great moment for Newmar as well,” Happe said. “These are two companies whose paths have run parallel for many years in terms of their legacies. Both today are known for taking care of the customer, for making high quality products, being innovative over the years and delivering unique solutions — and really taking care of their employees as well. And so, even though the companies are based in two different states and certainly have their own unique histories, in many ways, they’ve run similar paths to where we are today.
“I think it’s a coming together of two companies that fit strategically,” he continued. “We very strongly feel that they fit culturally and, I believe, financially for Winnebago Industries. As a parent, it’s a very accretive opportunity.”
Happe added, “We think Newmar’s best days continue to be ahead of it and that’s not a knock on what they’ve done to date because over the last decade they’ve done tremendous things, gaining share in Class A diesel, Class A gas, and now expanding into the Super C segment as well. So we’re so excited to add these guys to the family and the team and see what leverage and synergy, internally, we can learn from each other so that we can be a better company.”