News broke earlier this week that Niner Bikes had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the USA, and news breaks now that the company has been bought by private investors, under the name “Columbia Basin Partners”. It’s not certain who exactly those investors are yet, but they’re apparently “a group of passionate cycling enthusiasts”.
Until recently, Niner were distributed in the UK by Jungle Products, but were discontinued by them around Spring of this year. We asked why this morning, and they stated that as 29ers have became more popular, it led too much crossover between the product ranges of Niner and Santa Cruz. Coupled to increased business with Santa Cruz, that put them in a position where it only made sense to distribute one of the brands. They had no foreknowledge of anything being awry at Niner, and also stated that they are still facilitating UK warranty service for them.
Bicycle Retailer reports that a Colorado-based private investor group have bought the company, and that CEO Chris Sugai will remain involved. The bankruptcy was apparently part of a sale plan that was already in place. In an update, they quoted Chris as saying “This was the cleanest and fastest way to do it”, and saying that the sale will have very little impact on the day to day running of the company. Here’s what Chris had to say in an earlier statement:
“We’re happy to have a partner that shares our vision for the future, one who enables us to take Niner’s products and services to new heights. I’ll still be directly involved in the day-to-day operations, working diligently with our incredible team to explore and push the boundaries of this amazing brand’s potential. Our capable team remains intact. That’s important. Everyone here will continue to support Niner’s mission of supporting trails everywhere, of building the riding stoke, and of creating incredible cycling products for riders who love to hit the dirt.”
Niner is mostly keeping schtum on public facing media, with nothing about the bankruptcy filing or sale on the website or any social media profiles, which are still active. It all seems pretty civilised for a bankruptcy, though Niner isn’t out of the woods yet: While Columbia Basin Partners have agreed to buy the company, the bankruptcy proceedings mean that technically someone else could still swoop in a buy it with a higher offer.
In the UK, bankruptcy has some social stigma attached and usually makes it much more difficult for someone to subsequently set up a new company. American bankruptcy is less punitive or stigmatic, so this is unlikely to injure Chris Sugai’s career, and it makes more sense as a way of doing a deal in the US (insert obligatory we-are-not-lawyers qualification here).
You can scrutinise plenty of Niner numbers over at Business Den if you’re into that sort of thing, though Business Den sounds like a treehouse full of men in suits. Stick sharpening and percentage of trouser legs covered in mud are their KPIs.