Mercantile Bank provided debt financing and Muzinich & Co. provided debt and equity financing to support Blackford Capital’s investment in Aqua-Leisure Industries, a developer of water sport leisure products and aquatic goods.

Varnum served as legal advisor, Grant Thornton served as financial and tax advisor, and Rush Street served as debt financing advisor to Blackford.

Blackford Capital is a private equity firm based in Grand Rapids, MI.

Headquartered just outside of Boston, Aqua-Leisure was founded in 1970 and primarily serves the aquatic consumer products industry.

“Aqua-Leisure has appealed to premier sporting goods and value channel consumers throughout our 50-year history. Our organization’s overall approach to market assessment, product design, supply chain logistics and product positioning, whether through brick and mortar or e-commerce channels, has consistently delivered robust performance,” Steve Berenson, CEO of Aqua-Leisure, said. “We serve some of the largest and most demanding customers in the world. We are excited about our partnership with Blackford Capital, as it will create accelerated growth opportunities through expansion of current relationships and product lines as well as evolving new categories and sales channels.”

Blackford intends to help Aqua-Leisure seize growth opportunities to gain market share and capitalize on industry trends, including unprecedented consumer demand through e-commerce and online sales channels. The company’s management team will continue in their current roles.

“We are thrilled to add Aqua-Leisure to our portfolio as another diversified consumer products business with a vision for continued evolution,” Martin Stein, founder and managing director of Blackford Capital, said. “The company has impressive and decades-long relationships with excellent customers, which have strengthened recently as Aqua-Leisure’s products have experienced tremendous consumer demand for backyard use and ‘staycations’ driven by the uncertainty brought about by the pandemic. Throughout this period, Aqua-Leisure has proven itself to be an incredibly reliable partner and supplier. We are excited to partner with Steve Berenson and the rest of the Aqua-Leisure management team to promote organic growth, pursue new distribution opportunities and execute meaningful add-on acquisitions over the coming years.”

Aqua-Leisure was advised by Tully & Holland and Jon Pratt, managing director at Duff & Phelps.

Mercantile Bank provides banking services to businesses, individuals and governmental units.

Muzinich is a direct investment fund focused on providing senior debt, mezzanine debt and equity co-investment capital to lower middle market companies backed by families, founders and/or private equity firms.