Kinderhook Partners with Auto-Wares and Acquires Lafayette Warehouse

9 March 2023

Kinderhook Industries, LLC  announced today the recapitalization of AWI Holdings, LLC  in partnership with management. Auto-Wares is a leading distributor of aftermarket automotive parts to independent service centers, independent parts stores, and direct to consumer through its network of 200+ company-owned stores. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Subsequent to the recapitalization, Auto-Wares acquired Lafayette Warehouse, Inc. ("Lafayette"). Lafayette is a warehouse distributor of OEM and aftermarket automotive parts in North Central Indiana. Lafayette is the 83rd acquisition completed by Auto-Wares since its founding and Kinderhook's 202nd automotive / light manufacturing-related transaction. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Auto-Wares is a Grand Rapids, Michigan based warehouse distributor of aftermarket automotive parts to installers, parts stores, and consumers through its company-owned stores. Founded in 1976 by Fred Bunting, Auto-Wares has grown into one of the largest automotive parts distributors in the United States. AWI leverages its extensive inventory and deep product knowledge to serve its customers. In addition to its Grand Rapids headquarters and distribution center, Auto-Wares serves its customers through a dense regional network of strategically located distribution centers and company-owned stores throughout the Midwest.

Todd Leimenstoll, CEO of Auto-Wares, said, "Kinderhook is the perfect partner to help Auto-Wares accelerate growth during this exciting new chapter. Auto-Wares is confident that Kinderhook's expertise, resources, and vision for future growth will allow our business to expand our operations and build upon our reputation as a leading warehouse distributor. Our commitment to customer satisfaction remains at the forefront of our business strategy, and we look forward to continuing to grow alongside our loyal customer base."

Paul Cifelli, Managing Director at Kinderhook, stated, "we are thrilled to partner with the exceptionally talented and experienced management team of Auto-Wares. We share a common vision for the future of Auto-Wares and believe that this partnership will unlock tremendous potential. With our collective resources and industry expertise, we are confident that Auto-Wares will continue its long history of growth alongside operational excellence."

"I knew from the start of this process that finding the right partner was critical to our long-term success, and I am confident that we have found the right partner in Kinderhook. The firm's deep industry expertise and track record of success in the automotive sector was a major factor in Auto-Wares' decision to partner with Kinderhook. Equally important was Kinderhook's cultural fit with our own organization. We share a common vision for growth, customer service, and operational excellence. I'm excited about what we can achieve together, and I look forward to a bright future for our company," said Fred Bunting, Founder of Auto-Wares.

In combining Lafayette with Auto-Wares, Pat James, President at Lafayette, commented, "first and foremost, we want to thank our employees and customers for the success we have had over the past 96 years. We could not have done it without all of their support. Auto-Wares presented an opportunity for our legacy to continue by offering great opportunities for our current employees and customers. We also would like to thank Auto-Wares for welcoming us into their family of companies."

Todd Leimenstoll, CEO of Auto-Wares, stated, "all of us at Auto-Wares are excited to have the Lafayette Warehouse team join the Auto-Wares Group of Companies. Lafayette Warehouse has a very successful history and tremendous reputation. I am thankful for the trust that Pat James and the James family have placed in us. We look forward to the next chapter in growing the company."

Kirkland & Ellis LLP served as legal counsel and Stifel served as buy-side financial advisor to Kinderhook for the transaction with Auto-Wares. Honigman LLP served as legal counsel to Auto-Wares for the transaction with Lafayette. Financing for both transactions was provided by a Truist-led debt syndicate that included Union Bank, Fifth Third, KeyBank, Stifel, and Regions.