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Potter Electric Signal Co. Acquired by Private Equity Firm Gryphon Investors

Potter Electric, a venerable brand in the fire/life-safety marketplace, was previously held by Two Rivers Associates and Dobbs Management Service.

ST. LOUIS — Gryphon Investors, a San Francisco-based private equity firm, has acquired Potter Electric Signal Co. following an undisclosed majority investment in the manufacturer of fire/life-safety products.

Potter, based here, was held by private shareholders, including Two Rivers Associates and Dobbs Management Service. Founded in 1898, the company designs and manufactures sprinkler monitoring products, fire systems and security solutions for use in commercial, industrial, multifamily and residential buildings.

San Francisco-based Gryphon focuses middle market companies, managing more than $2.5 billion of equity investments and capital since 1997, according to a press release. The firm has an extensive track record of leading equity investments of $50 million to $200 million per portfolio company with sales ranging from approximately $100 million to $500 million.

Potter President & CEO Bernie Lears, along with the Potter management team, have retained a significant ownership position in the company and will continue to lead the business, according to the announcement.

“We are excited to partner with Gryphon as we enter the next exciting stage of Potter’s evolution. Potter has many opportunities to serve our existing customers even better and to expand our share in markets such as the fire alarm systems segment,” Lears states. “We look forward to working with Gryphon to grow our business, and most importantly to deliver even more outstanding products and service to our customers in the coming years.”

A pair of executives from the security and fire/life-safety industries will join Potter’s Board of Directors. They are Kelly Romano, the former president of several of United Technologies’ fire and security, and Carrier Corp. global businesses; and Mark Levy, the former president and CEO of Honeywell Life Safety.

Other newly appointed members to the Board per Gryphon’s investment: Rob Salek, the former CEO of Gryphon portfolio company Consolidated Fire Protection, and Gryphon professionals Bob Grady, Wes Lucas and Felix Park.

The acquisition marks Gryphon’s third investment in the fire-safety industry, which include Consolidated Fire Protection and Jensen Hughes. The partnership with Gryphon will provide Potter the necessary resources to expand its market share in North America and abroad, as well as drive innovations across its portfolio of products, according the announcement.

Lucas, who serves as operations partner and co-head of the industrial growth group at Gryphon, says Potter offers exciting future growth opportunities in segments such as fire alarm systems and in international markets.

“Gryphon is enthusiastic about providing both capital and expertise to support Potter’s management team as they continue to invest in their business for the benefit of customers, employees and shareholders,” he says.

Harris Williams & Co. served as the exclusive advisor to Potter. Stifel Nicolaus acted as financial advisor to Gryphon. Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton acted as the legal advisor to Gryphon, and Bryan Cave was the legal advisor to Potter.

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