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Fairfax Financial buys 75% stake in Sporting Life


nwoodman
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A bit more info from the website

 

http://www.sportinglife.ca/sportinglife/company/aboutUs.jsp

 

Originally located at 2045 Yonge Street, south of Eglinton, the company's early years were devoted to building clientele for its ski equipment, running shoes, racquet sports gear and fashion apparel for sports enthusiasts. Success came as a result of the untiring commitment to customer service and the full range of product options available to help customers make more informed purchasing decisions.

 

Twenty Nine years later, Sporting Life now has 4 locations, including its own 55,000 square-foot home at the corner of Yonge and Blythwood. Just down the road at Yonge and Roselawn is another facility that specializes in bikes and snowboards. In 1995, it established its third store in Etobicoke, a location that occupies 36,000 square-feet in Etobicoke's prestigious Sherway Gardens. Sporting Life's most recent store opened in December 2002 in downtown Collingwood, the heart of Ontario's ski country. These locations stock over 200 brand names, including fashion from Bogner, The North Face, Patagonia, Ralph Lauren, and Tommy Hilfiger, as well as equipment from Nike, Salomon, Rossignol, Burton, Specialized, Cannondale, Rollerblade, and more. Sporting Life is the single largest retailer to carry many of these lines. In 1979, the store had a staff of just fifteen; now the company consists of close to seven hundred associates.

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I am very familiar with this business,, so much so that I can say its a complete waste of time for Fairfax...

 

It wont even move the needle, and the sporting goods business model is not one that makes sense to scale under the brand "Sporting Life", at least William Ashleys has the potential to become the next "Williams Sonoma", but Sporting Life does not offer anything unique, and the prices are markedly higher than other good sporting stores.

 

 

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<$100m in sales

 

http://www.ctv.ca/generic/generated/static/business/article2281164.html

 

Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. has struck a deal to buy 75 per cent of Sporting Life Inc. as the upscale “fashletics” retailer aims to expand across Canada.

 

The fashion and sporting goods chain, which is more than 30 years old, is privately owned by its co-founders David Russell, his wife Patti, and Brian McGrath.

 

“We are very pleased to acquire such a pre-eminent retailer as Sporting Life,” said Prem Watsa, chief executive officer of Fairfax. “Today’s acquisition is consistent with our ongoing interest in acquiring strong, established franchises from entrepreneurial founders who want to find a long-term home for their business.”

 

Mr. Russell said the co-owners plan to expand Sporting Life beyond its four-store Ontario base into a cross-country retailer with between 10 to 15 stores in the next decade or more. “With the aid of Fairfax, we will be even stronger financially than we were prior to this investment,” the owners said in a statement.

 

Sporting Life’s sales, at under $100-million, rose 10 per cent in 2010, they said, adding the retailer is profitable. The owners have committed to stay on long term. “We will not open stores faster than we can manage the customer experience,” Mr. Russell said. “Our wish is to be the best – not the biggest.”

 

 

 

 

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I don't think it's about moving the needle in large increments.  They are looking for businesses that they understand, want a permanent home, are at a fair price, and will give them the possibility of larger returns than what other asset classes will over the longer term. 

 

National Indemnity wasn't terribly large when acquired by Berkshire and look at it today under Ajit Jain's guidance?  You never know what something can become with the right person at the helm, and a long-term view taken by the owner.  Cheers!

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