With two acquisitions on Monday, Martin Franklin again demonstrated the primary business skill that has led to his rise as a serial entrepreneur: deal-making.
Neither the acquisition of the Waddigton Group, a maker of disposable dinnerware, nor that of Alent, a British chemicals manufacturer, is particularly splashy. Yet both will further the reach of two of the business empires that Mr. Franklin oversees: Jarden and Platform Specialty Products.
Deal-making runs in Mr. Franklin’s blood. His father, Roland Franklin, was a partner to James Goldsmith, the British corporate raider known for buying and disassembling companies in the 1980s.
But the younger Mr. Franklin has made his own name as a mergers and acquisitions specialist. His strategy has been to buy seemingly niche companies that need little investment and generate cash that he can use to reinvest in new acquisitions.
He first put his business strategy into practice at Jarden, once the canning subsidiary of the Ball Corporation. Mr. Franklin emerged as a large shareholder in 2001, when he repeatedly bid for control of the company. He successfully battled his way onto the board and then persuaded his fellow directors to replace management with himself as chief executive.
Jarden, which bought the Waddington Group, has not become a household name, but the same can’t be said for its stable of brands like Rawlings baseball gloves, Sunbeam irons and the Yankee Candle Company.
“I’m not going to bang heads with Clorox or P.&G.,” Mr. Franklin told Fortune magazine in a 2003 interview. He said he liked things that make you say “‘I didn’t know people still made those.’ But they’re in every home, and you buy them over and over.”
Mr. Franklin has also proved himself to be a fan of setting up so-called blank-check companies — known as special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs — publicly listed shell companies that raise money on the stock markets with the express purpose of buying other businesses.
Over the last decade, Mr. Franklin and various partners who have included the hedge fund magnates William A. Ackman and Noam Gottesman have made an impressive number of acquisitions. One such vehicle, Freedom, was instrumental in helping the hedge fund GLG go public in 2007.
And in 2012, Mr. Franklin’s Justice vehicle, created in partnership with the billionaire investor Nicolas Berggruen, agreed to merge with Burger King to return the company to the public markets.
Since setting up Platform through a SPAC two years ago, Mr. Franklin and his team have struck seven takeovers to expand the company as a manufacturer of specialized chemicals, buying up companies like MacDermid, Arysta LifeScience, Agriphar and now Alent.
Mr. Franklin also set up Nomad Holdings, another blank-check company meant to become a serial acquirer. That vehicle achieved its first takeover in April when it bought Iglo, the parent of the Birds Eye food brand, for about $2.8 billion.
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