Blackford Sells Ellison Bakery to Tilia

Blackford Capital has sold Ellison Bakery, a manufacturer of bakery products sold to the foodservice industry, and retail and private label sectors, to Tilia Holdings, a Chicago-based firm that invests in the food sector.

Ellison Bakery was founded by Donald Ellis in a family garage in 1945 and supplied baked goods to restaurants and grocery stores in the Ft. Wayne, Indiana area. The company grew quickly and later became the exclusive manufacturer for Archway Cookies in Indiana, Kentucky, and Wisconsin.

Today, Ellison bakes and sells cookies, snack bars, crunch, and inclusion products (e.g., chocolate chip pieces, brownie pieces, and pie crust pieces). Ellison, led by CEO Stephanie Chattillion, has over 100 employees and operates out of a 115,000 sq. ft. facility located in Fort Wayne.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with Tilia in the next phase of Ellison’s growth and value creation,” said Mrs. Chattillion. “Tilia’s extensive food experience, wealth of knowledge, and alignment of core values made them the clear choice to partner with Ellison.”

Blackford acquired Ellison in April 2017 in partnership with the Ellis family, Promus Equity Partners, Concentric Equity Partners, and Baird Principal Group.

“Since our initial investment, our team has been honored to partner with the Ellis family, Ellison Bakery’s management team, and our esteemed group of co-investors to successfully grow and refine the company’s business model,” said Jeff Johnson, managing director of Blackford and former chairman of Ellison Bakery. “The investments we made to expand its capabilities should position the company to accelerate and achieve its next phase of expansion. We have high confidence in the established leadership’s ability to realize their numerous growth initiatives.”

Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Blackford Capital invests in middle-market manufacturing, distribution, and service companies in both mature and growing industries. Target companies typically have revenues of $20 million to $100 million and EBITDAs of $2 million to $20 million. With the sale of Ellison Bakery, Blackford now has 10 portfolio companies located across the United States.

“Ellison Bakery will represent Blackford’s fifth successful exit amongst a total of 15 platform companies,” said Martin Stein, founder and managing director of Blackford. “We are very pleased with the outcome of this investment, which yielded strong financial results for the business and our limited partners. We are confident in the shared vision for the bakery going forward and look forward to seeing their future success, as we continue our commitment to supporting unique, alternative investments through both long-term and new relationships, even amid this new economic environment.”

“It was a pleasure to co-invest alongside Blackford and support Ellison’s management team on its growth initiatives over the past few years of transition from sole family ownership to one with institutional backing,” said Andy Code, managing director of Promus Equity Partners. “We wish our valued partners and the entire Ellison team all the best as they continue forward.”

Chicago-based Promus Equity Partners is affiliated with Promus Holdings, a multi-family asset management firm.  Promus targets lower middle market companies with EBITDAs of $15 million or less. Sectors of interest include consumer products, food & beverage, industrial products, manufacturing services, specialty materials, distribution, and business services.

Chicago-based Tilia makes control investments in lower middle business-to-business food services companies. The firm was co-founded in 2017 by Johannes Burlin and Eric Larson.

“Ellison provides technical expertise and formulation capabilities across a broad portfolio of baked products and inclusions,” said Mr. Burlin. “We look forward to supporting the company’s continued investment in its organization and service offerings to meet the needs of its growing set of customers.”

Comerica Bank and True West Capital Partners provided debt financing to support the acquisition of Ellison Bakery by Tilia.

Private Equity Professional | August 19, 2020

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