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CamelBak Products sold for $412 million

Petaluma-based CamelBak Products, which makes innovative water packs used by thirsty hikers, bicyclists and soldiers around the world, has been sold to a Utah company for $412 million, the new owners announced Tuesday.

The 26-year-old company, which is one of the better-known brands based in Sonoma County, was acquired by Vista Outdoor, a Clearfield, Utah, company that is amassing a growing stable of brands in the market for outdoor products and shooting sports.

CamelBak will remain headquartered in Petaluma and its 300 employees will be integrated into a division of Vista Outdoor. Sally McCoy, CamelBak’s chief executive officer, will remain with Vista, the new owners said.

“CamelBak helps strengthen and expand Vista Outdoor’s presence in the outdoor sports and recreation market,” Mark DeYoung, Vista Outdoor’s chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

Founded in Texas in 1989, CamelBak moved to Sonoma County in 1999 and grew quickly under a succession of owners. Compass Diversified Holdings, a Westport, Conn., investment fund, purchased the business in 2011 for $258.6 million and expects to record a gain of $150 million to $170 million on the sale, according to a company statement.

A spokeswoman for Vista Outdoor declined further comment about CamelBak’s operations in Petaluma, citing a blackout period before the company’s quarterly earnings report on Aug. 13.

CamelBak representatives were unavailable for comment Tuesday.

The company became a global brand by devising “hands-free” hydration systems - backpacks with built-in plastic reservoirs for water and sports drinks. Users sip from their packs using an attached tube.

The Petaluma company is on track to sell $160 million of its water packs, bottles, filters and purification systems this year, Vista said. Its sales declined 4.8 percent to $36.9 million for the quarter ending March 31, compared to a year earlier, according to a Compass Diversified earnings statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The decline was attributed to a decrease in the sale of hydration systems, which in turn were linked to “reduced military demand due to troop downsizing and reduced inventory available for sale due to the West Coast port congestion in the United States.”

The filing stated that CamelBak “has developed a reputation as the preferred supplier for the hydration needs of the most demanding athletes and war fighters.”

The company is the biggest seller of hands-free hydration packs and reusable water bottles in the “specialty channels” market, Compass Diversified noted in the SEC filing. CamelBak also is “the dominant supplier” of hydration packs to the military.

Vista Outdoor has more than 30 brands in the ammunition, firearms and outdoor accessories categories, including Bolle sunglasses, Federal Premium bullets, Savage Arms rifles and Bushnell riflescopes and rangefinders.

You can reach Staff Writer Robert Digitale at 521-5285 or robert.digitale@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @rdigit. You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or paul.payne@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @ppayne.

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