Oakley Capital Private Equity acquires North Technology Group – owner of North Sails
2014-03-03By Risa Merl

Oakley Capital Private Equity – founded by UK businessman and sailing enthusiast Peter Dubens – has acquired the majority stake in North Technology Group (NTG), the owner of US-based sailmaker North Sails.

‘The brand is superb, and the fact that it’s a technology leader and world leader is something that we found very interesting,’ said Peter Dubens, Oakley’s managing partner, in an exclusive interview with Boat International.

Oakley acquired NTG from its previous majority shareholder, Windway Capital Corp, headed by Terry Kohler, who purchased North Sails from its founder, Lowell North, more than 30 years ago. ‘I am confident the new shareholder, Oakley, will continue Lowell’s legacy to help launch North Sails and the NTG companies into their next stage of development,’ says Kohler.

North Sails remains the largest company by revenue within NTG’s portfolio. It is joined by composite spars, rigging and marine components maker Southern Spars; EdgeWater Boats, builder of outboard powered boats and tenders; and North Thin Ply Technology and North Cutting Systems. It is the latter two units that put NTG on the technology map outside of the yachting sphere. In addition to developing North’s 3Di manufacturing of sails and Southern Spars’ composite masts, North Thin Ply Technology has developed extremely light but strong carbon pre-preg solutions utilised by Formula 1 racing and the aerospace industry. Meanwhile, North Cutting Systems comprises two businesses: the AlphaBlade Cutting System, providing ‘a unique cutting solution for various industries’, and the Automated Tape Laying system.

It bears query: is Oakley more interested in the already high-tech sails that power everything from the sailing superyachts you see on this website to the America’s Cup yachts or the possibilities that exist in the composite technologies?

‘We are interested in everything that North Technology Group is doing,’ Dubens says very democratically. ‘Everything the company has done historically and currently led to my interest .’

Dubens says the acquisition is inclusive of the whole of North's businesses, but that, 'There are going to be some licensee agreements in some territories.' Dubens will chair the sailmaker’s board and current North Technology Group CEO Tom Whidden will continue in his post.

‘North Sails looks forward to working with Oakley to grow our business and carry on the tradition of providing sailors with the highest performing products by being at the forefront of development,’ says Whidden. ‘Oakley shares our obsession with technology and enthusiasm for the sport of sailing. We’re confident we are transitioning the business to a shareholder that will help North Sails reach the next level in sailmaking innovation.’

Dubens concurs that Oakley is, ‘backing the management team and helping with the implementation of new systems and operations. It’s business as usual for North.’

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