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BEL USA Merges With Branders.com; Receives Equity Investment

(2/25/2014)

As first reported by Counselor on Friday, BEL USA, parent company of supplier BEL Promo (asi/39552) and distributor DiscountMugs.com, has merged with Top 40 distributor Branders.com (asi/145021).

Terms of the transaction were not released, but the merger follows an equity investment into BEL USA by capital firm Comvest Partners. Comvest, which is based in West Palm Beach, FL, lists BEL USA on its website as one of its equity investments and is now a part owner of BEL USA along with Amin Rahman, the CEO of BEL. The investment in BEL by Comvest was completed in early January.

Rahman told Counselor that Branders.com will operate as a division of BEL, and that the company’s supplier and distributor divisions will remain separate. He said the deal closed on Thursday, and he expects each of his company’s divisions to operate as separate entities moving forward. “It was a great opportunity for us and we took it,” Rahman told Counselor about the deal with Branders.com. “It’s business as usual for all of our divisions.”

Rahman will remain the CEO of BEL USA and all of its divisions and Branders.com’s former CEO, Jerry McLaughlin, has left the company. “We’re glad to have a new partner in Comvest and excited about their commitment to and vision for the industry,” McLaughlin told Counselor this morning.

While McLaughlin wouldn’t provide sales numbers for his company, he did say that “Comvest acquired certain operations and assets of Branders which account for about $35 million in U.S. sales.” However, with Branders’ guidance previously, Counselor had reported that the company had $131 million in 2012 North American ad specialty sales. Subsequently, Counselor recently received information that valued Branders’ 2012 sales at $33.7 million. McLaughlin addressed the sales difference by saying there are some revenues not associated with the Comvest deal.

Moving forward, BEL says it will maintain the Branders.com name as a division of BEL. “It was a fantastic opportunity that Comvest brought to us and it seemed like a great fit with our existing businesses,” said Alan Tabasky, vice president of BEL USA. “We think the online segment will continue to grow and this merger positions us well to take advantage of that.”



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