Evergreen Pacific Partners (Evergreen), Washington State’s largest private equity fund, announced today that it has purchased a majority stake in Phoenix-based Vantage Mobility International (VMI), a leader in the manufacture and distribution of wheelchair accessible vehicles. VMI’s president and CEO, Doug Eaton, and CFO, Tim Barone, will retain significant ownership stakes in the company and continue to lead its operations. The investment will be used to fuel further expansion by the vehicle manufacturer.
VMI has a state-of-the-art mobility van conversion facility located in Phoenix that features the latest in assembly-line technology and CAD software. The company has strong supply arrangements with Toyota, Honda and Chrysler for conversions of their vehicles. Every VMI vehicle moves through an extensive process that begins with removal of interior components and undercarriage and concludes with a 200-point inspection and extensive road test.
“Our team is passionate about helping our customers improve their lives,” said Eaton. “Evergreen’s involvement in VMI will give us the resources to help even more people. This relationship will allow us to invest in new manufacturing technologies that will lower our costs as we continually improve our world-class quality. Working closely with our dealer network, we’ll expand our marketing to reach and serve more customers. And we plan to bolster our team with more top-notch people to sustain our growth long term.”
The market for wheelchair-accessible vehicles is large, growing and still mostly untapped. Currently, VMI estimates there are between three and four million Americans living with wheelchairs, yet fewer than four percent of them own a wheelchair van or a significantly converted vehicle. The market is projected to grow significantly over the next five or six years, primarily driven by meeting the needs of an aging Baby Boomer generation, those suffering from obesity-related illnesses and disabled military veterans.
The percentage of the U.S. population older than 65 years old is projected to grow from 13.7 percent in 2012 to 24.1 percent in 2035, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The number of disabled American veterans has increased nearly 45 percent since 2000, primarily as a result of military operations in the Middle East.
“Getting behind the wheel is something that most Americans never think twice about, but for anyone in a wheelchair it’s a significant barrier to mobility and the freedom that comes with it,” said T.J. McGill, a co-founder and managing partner at Evergreen Pacific Partners. “VMI is well positioned to grow given its strong reputation, dealer network and partners. We look forward to helping VMI serve a large, and growing, population segment with specially equipped vans that meet their specific needs.”
Evergreen Pacific Partners, which manages two private equity funds totaling $700 million, invests in traditional buyouts, management-led buyouts, and growth equity investments involving traditional middle-market companies in the Western U.S. and Canada. Its investors include foundations, endowments, pension funds and West Coast-based CEOs with experience in Evergreen’s target industries.
“Investors have been particularly interested in VMI over the past several years due to the combination of the market potential and our solid performance,” said Tim Barone, VMI’s CFO. “We were impressed with Evergreen Pacific Partners’ ability to grasp the business opportunity and empathize with our customer. Their track record of success gives us the confidence that VMI will now have the resources to turn the infrastructure and expertise we’ve built over the past decade into explosive growth.”
Harris Williams & Co. acted as the exclusive advisor to VMI.