Home Boating Business The North Sails Sale, Now and Then

The North Sails Sale, Now and Then

by Kurt Hoehne

The North Technology Group (go ahead, think of it as North Sails) was just sold by Terry Kohler’s Windway Capital Group to Oakley Capital Private Equity. The news here appears all good, it’s a successful company that is a technological leader, and the new owner promises to carry on the traditions set out by its founder, Lowell North.

There’s a bit of a personal story for me in  this. As a young bow man in 1984 I had the good fortune to sail on Terry’s Agape Too II for the Southern Ocean Racing Conference. It was known to a few, but not public knowledge, that Terry was buying North Sails from Lowell North, and I remember Terry and North sitting in the cockpit having quiet, private conversations back at the dock. From the beginning, it was clear Terry saw the purchase as a business venture with great potential and not just a chance to dabble in sailmaking.

Terry Kohler during a breezy run aboard Agape' Too II in the 1984 SORC.

Terry Kohler during a breezy run aboard Agape’ Too II in the 1984 SORC.

In those 30 years we’ve seen the 3DL and 3Di sailmaking technology revolutionize sailmaking. We’ve seen the NTG push technology and fight to retain that intellectual property. The Southern Spars part of the business is clearly a leader in spar technology as well. I wasn’t aware of the Edgewater Boats until now, but that power boat line certainly looks sophisticated as well.

Not only has Terry been the right custodian for Lowell North’s creation, he has also supported the sport in many behind-the-scenes endeavors in areas such as handicapping and match racing.

I asked my skipper Terry for his thoughts on the sale. Here’s what he said:

When I took over North Sails from Lowell North some 30 years ago, my biggest worry during our discussions then was my fear of not being able to retain the great internal solidity of the organization. I believe I did not fail that concern, and Tom Whidden and I held strongly that same hope in finding the right buyer for North Technology Group. We finally found the right man in dedicated yachtsman Peter Dubens, and both Tom & I are holding on to reduced financial shares of the company because we see him as the guy who can carry that on also.

Terry’s a straight shooter and obviously cares deeply for the brand and is confident in the new owner Peter Dubens.

Seattle’s North Sails loft is owned by Jack and Ann Christiansen, and they too are optimistic about the future of their brand. Ann says simply, “We appreciate Terry’s past and continuing support and we are looking forward to great things for North Sails in the future.”

Here’s the official word from North.

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