In August, Country Coach Inc. founder Bob Lee unhappily ended his affiliation with the company he started 33 years ago, according to a report in the Register-Guard, Junction City, Ore.
On Tuesday (Nov. 28), Lee jumped back in the RV game, joining with a New York equity firm to acquire Yakima, Wash.-based Western Recreational Vehicles Inc.
“I was getting bored,” the 67-year-old Junction City resident said from the National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., where the deal was announced. “What’s to enjoy about sitting in a rocking chair?”
Lee’s partner in the Yakima deal is Monomoy Capital Partners, a New York private equity fund founded in 2005. The company specializes in buying middle-market manufacturers that require operational or financial restructuring.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, nor was Lee’s stake in the company.
Lee’s title will be chairman of the board. His role will be developing strategies, re-establishing the dealer network and updating the product, said Philip Von Burg, a Monomoy principal.
He’ll also be working on “strategies for acquisitions,” Von Burg said.
Asked if the new ownership was interested in acquiring Lee’s old company, Country Coach, Von Burg said, “A lot of us would like to acquire that. … There are a lot of opportunities for us in the market. We have to look at it from a price point standpoint and an operational fit.”
Though he’s no longer on the board of Perris, Calif.-based National RV Holdings Inc. board – parent to Country Coach and National RV Inc. – Lee is the fifth-largest shareholder in National RV Holdings, with 577,906 shares, or 5.6%.
According to the Register-Guard, Western RV is a family-owned, 36-year-old manufacturer of high-end RVs that fall in the “premium” segment of the market. The company makes Class A motorhomes under the Alpine Coach brand, and Alpenlite fifth wheels and truck campers.
The company has struggled of late, beset in the past year by a plant fire, the loss of a major customer and the general downturn in the RV industry, Von Burg said. The company once had more than 550 employees, but today has just 250.
“They’re a relatively small player in terms of market share and size, but they have a strong reputation,” said Richard Fish, a Monomoy partner who will serve as the company’s chief restructuring officer.
Lee has a wealth of experience in the RV industry. He founded Country Camper in 1973 with two employees out of a 2,000-square-foot building in Junction City. By the early 1990s, the company had become a national player in the luxury motor coach market.
In 1996, Lee sold Country Coach to National RV Holdings for $9 million in stock and the assumption of $10.1 million in Country Coach debt. Lee stayed on as CEO after the sale. He retired in 2000, but returned in 2002 to turn around the Country Coach division. He stepped down as CEO in 2004 and continued as a paid consultant until May 2005.
He served on the corporate board of National RV Holdings from 1998 and watched in recent years as the parent company struggled, posting red ink in 17 of the past 21 quarters.
In November 2005, Lee and Los Angeles investment banker Bryant Riley launched an unsuccessful bid to buy National RV Holdings. In August, Lee resigned from the board, saying the company’s leaders had refused to deal with “the ongoing crisis” that “threatens the very future of this company,” and that it was time for CEO Brad Albrechtsen to resign.