Fleet Feet Purchase Part of Post-Buyout Strategy
Fleet Feet Inc., the franchisor of running specialty stores, scooped up Gary Smith’s Easy Runner in Little Rock, Arkansas, the latest acquisition of an independent operator by the brand.
It’s the first big purchase this year since a management-led buyout last summer gave Fleet Feet lots of capital and no debt. Investors Management Corp., the private equity firm, joined with management to purchase the company from its founder and majority shareholder, Tom Raynor.
“It is a privilege to continue the amazing legacy of Gary Smith,” said Jeff Phillips, CEO of Fleet Feet. Smith opened Easy Runner in 1996, and is the founder of the Firecracker Fast 5K, a Little Rock 4th of July tradition.
Noelle and Sean Coughlan, long-time Fleet Feet Sports employees, will become the operating partners of the store. That’s another key goal that Fleet Feet had when executing its management-led buyout: to find a way to turn long-time employees into franchise partners. The “operating partner” model allows people notoriously short on capital to earn their ownership rights over time.