Clarified: Private Equity Firm Invests in Steelite International

Updated at 3:49 p.m. to include clarification offered by the director of marketing for Steelite International America.
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Arbor Investments, a specialized private equity firm that focuses exclusively on investing in companies within the food, beverage and related industries, has acquired an investment stake in Steelite International from PNC Riverarch Capital.

Steelite, based in New Castle, Pa., with a showroom in downtown Youngstown, is a manufacturer, designer, distributor and supplier of tabletop and buffet products for the hospitality and food service industries. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

A news release from Arbor, issued in December, specifically termed the transaction as an “acquisition.” However, the director of marketing from Steelite International America in New Castle, Alison Clingensmith, contacted The Business Journal late Thursday afternoon and explained that the use of the word “acquisition” (which Arbor used in its news release) is “misleading and is being interpreted as Steelite sold their business.”

Instead, she explained, Steelite International is partnering with a new private equity sponsor, Arbor Investments.

Arbor, with offices in New York and Chicago, is a private equity fund “weighted more towards operations that financial modeling,” states its website. “Our world-class combination of in-house and affiliated expertise in operations and functional disciplines lets us compress learning curves, make the right organizational changes and take your business to the next level.”

Steelite’s president and CEO, John Miles, will continue to lead the company from its headquarters in New Castle, states the Arbor news release.

Miles spent his entire career in the business, first at Woodmere China and then at Homer Laughlin before joining Steelite in 1996 as a regional sales manager. He advanced through numerous leadership roles and responsibilities, culminating as president of the Americas division in 2005. With the recapitalization of Steelite in 2016, Miles was named president and CEO.

John Miles will remain president and CEO of Steelite International.

Steelite subsequently significantly expanded its presence in the global hospitality and foodservice industries, now trading in over 140 countries, according to the Arbor announcement.

“I’ve been in this industry for over 30 years and truly have a passion for our products, our employees, and the longstanding partnerships we’ve built at Steelite,” Miles said in a statement. “As we looked to our next chapter, it was important for our management team to find a like-minded partner who not only brings industry experience but also shares our appetite and vision for ambitious growth. Arbor’s extensive involvement in the food industry and unmatched track record of success make them the ideal partner for Steelite.”

Steelite opened its Youngstown Corporate Showroom and Experience Center in December 2018. At the time, the company said it invested more than $1 million to remodel the former site of the Youngstown Club.

In late March, Steelite acquired the food service divisions of Homer Laughlin China Co. and the Hall China Co. of Newell, W. Va. Steelite took over the manufacturing and sales of all Homer Laughlin food service-industry tableware except its Fiesta brand, which continues to be made at the Newell plant.

Commenting on the deal, Arbor partner Brody Lynn stated, “Steelite clearly is a world leader with an exceptional brand reputation in the market as an innovative, value added partner – a credit to John and the culture he has built at the company. The entire Arbor team is anxious to work with John and his team to help accelerate growth, both organically and through new partnerships and acquisitions.”

The Steelite acquisition marks the sixth platform investment out of Arbor Investments’ Fund IV. Kirkland & Ellis served as Arbor’s legal counsel in connection with the transaction.

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