The Gores Group (“Gores”), a global investment firm, has bought AMI Entertainment (AMI) through its “Small Capitalization Partners investment” fund.
Originally founded in 1909 as the National Automatic Music Co. and known for decades in this business for its “Rowe”-branded jukeboxes, AMI Entertainment has been part of coin-op for more than a century. AMI was part of an ongoing series of “digital media” acquisitions by the Harbour Group, which entered the amusement business with its purchase of Merit Industries in 2002. It bought Rowe Entertainment in 2003, which became AMI Entertainment back in 2004.
Following this morning’s announcement that AMI had been bought from its longtime owner, the Harbour Group, RePlay had a chance to chat with AMI CEO Mike Maas about the deal.
“It’s ‘big news,’ I guess,” Maas said, “but it’s kind of ‘no news’ in other ways from our perspective. Really, the main story is that it’s business as usual at AMI. From a customer and a market perspective, nothing’s changing other than a little bit of improvement in the near future as we get fresh blood, fresh ideas and fresh money.”
About Harbour’s move to sell the storied juke maker, Maas said, “In one way, you could say this process has been going on 14 years because Harbour Group has had Merit and AMI for many, many years.” (Merit was bought in 2002; Rowe International and its AMI jukebox brand came aboard in 2003.) The Gores Group has been interested in AMI for quite some time, Maas said, with things coming together this spring.
“They clearly like our strategy, they like our team, and they like the opportunity going forward and want to participate in it,” Maas continued. “For Harbour Group, it was well past the normal time for them to hold a company within one of their funds. I think the Harbour Group guys really enjoyed AMI both personally and professionally so they hung onto it for a long time, but everything was right for a move so they did it.”
As for the business-as-usual approach and AMI’s new investor, Maas said, “The Gores Group is pretty clear that I and the management team are responsible for the business. They trust us to run the company, and we’ll obviously keep them informed and work strategies together.
“Fundamentally, they bought us for the future, not the past,” he continued. “Therefore, they looked at our plans for the future and they said, ‘Yeah, that’s something we want to be part of.’ I think that’s an endorsement not just for the strength of AMI today, but the strength of where we’re going and what we’re going to be able to do for customers.”
Jon Gimbel, Managing Director of The Gores Group, had praise for Maas and the rest of the AMI team, adding, “Our growth capital will allow the company to continue to develop innovative products that their customers deserve while continuing to expand their geographic reach. We believe that AMI is a strong platform for growth, both organic and through acquisitions, and our flexible capital base will allow us to execute on these initiatives.”
Maas concluded: “I’m personally excited. I briefed all of our employees in multiple locations this week and everybody was, ‘Great! This is good news – let’s go!’ There’s no hesitation anywhere in our organization. We’re all green lights and excitement. That’s the message I want our customers to hear. This is a good thing. It’s good for AMI, it’s good for our people and it’s good for AMI’s customers.”