BizWest’s second annual “Deals of the Year,” covering 2016, runs the gamut from complicated hotel deals to multibillion tech mergers to combinations of some of the region’s preeminent banks. You’ll also find one of the nation’s largest sporting-goods stores and a $500 million venture fund. Still hungry? We’ll even toss in a little nut butter to keep you satisfied.
Deals were evaluated by the BizWest editorial team, with consideration given to impact, complexity and size of the deal, both in terms of dollar volume and, when appropriate, square footage. Deals could include mergers, acquisitions, construction projects, leases, sales, venture-capital funding and expansions.
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We considered both deals announced in 2016 but not yet consummated, and deals that were fully realized in 2016, even though they might have been announced previously.
Here are the winners and finalists in each category:
Deal of the Year: Ranch-Way Feeds acquired by Minnesota’s Hubbard Feeds
Players: Ranch-Way Feeds, Hubbard Feeds
Ranch-Way Feeds, the oldest continuously operating business in Fort Collins, was acquired in June 2016 by Mankato, Minn.-based Hubbard Feeds. Hubbard is a subsidiary of Ridley Inc., which was acquired last year by Alltech Inc.
Ranch-Way, 416 Linden St., manufactures and distributes more than 50,000 tons of livestock feed annually in the Rocky Mountain region. The company also owns retail stores in Fort Collins and Santa Fe, N.M., which were included in the acquisition.
Hubbard Feeds will continue to market and sell the Ranch-Way brand of feeds. Ranch-Way’s plant gives Hubbard 20 manufacturing facilities across the country.
Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. (Nasdaq: PPC) in November 2016 announced plans to acquire Minnesota-based GNP Co. for $350 million in cash. The deal was completed in January. GNP is a provider of premium branded chicken products in the Upper Midwest.
The Scotts Miracle-Gro Co., which bought a 31 percent stake in Boulder-based AeroGrow International Inc. in 2013, has increased its stake in the local firm to 80 percent. AeroGrow said in December that Scotts had exercised warrants to purchase the additional shares for $47.8 million in cash.
Deal of the Year: Solana 3100 Pearl apartments in Boulder sell for $136 million
Value: $136 million
Players: Rockwood Capital, Greystar
Investor interest in Boulder apartments doesn’t appear to be going anywhere any time soon, and that trend drove many deals in the Boulder Valley and Northern Colorado in 2016.
One big deal was for the Solana 3100 Pearl apartments in Boulder, which sold for $136 million, or $426,332 per unit. Real Estate Investment firm Rockwood Capital — which has offices in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles — used an entity called 3100 Pearl Owner LLC to buy the apartments from Greystar, an apartment investment and management giant based in South Carolina.
Residents of the 319-unit complex received notice that the apartments were under management of Greenwood Village-based Griffis Residential, which owns and manages a portfolio of apartment communities in Colorado, Texas, Nevada and Washington.
The project has been renamed Griffis 3100 Pearl. The 3100 Pearl apartments were one of the first projects to get under way in 2012 near the intersection of Pearl and 30th streets, which has since boomed with redevelopment activity.
Argyle Acquisitions LLC, a joint venture led by Chris Geer of Superior-based Haven Capital and Eric Mallon of Boulder-based Heartwood Capital, paid $51.25 million for The Argyle at Willow Springs apartments in Fort Collins. The purchase price came out to just more than $183,000 per unit for the 280-unit complex built in 1999.
Bell Partners Inc., a North Carolina-based apartment investment and management company, paid $116.3 million for the AMLI at Flatirons apartment complex in Broomfield. Greensboro-based Bell used the entity Ch Realty VII Bell MF Denver Interlocken LLC to purchase the property at 210 Summit Blvd., through its office in Raleigh,N.C., from AMLI Residential. AMLI at Flatirons will be renamed Bell Summit at Flatirons. AMLI Residential purchased the 500-unit apartment complex in 2011 for $78.8 million.
BANKING & FINANCE
Deal of the Year: Guaranty, Home State banks merge
Value: $133.7 million
Players: Guaranty Bancorp, Home State Bancorp
Guaranty Bancorp and Home State Bancorp, the holding companies for Guaranty Bank and Trust Co., and Home State Bank, in September 2016 completed a merger that was first announced in March of that year.
The merger created one of the five largest Colorado-based bank-holding companies.
The combined company will has $3.3 billion in total assets, $2.6 billion in deposits and $2.3 billion in total gross loans.
Home State Bank operated 11 branches, with four in Loveland, three in Fort Collins and one each in Windsor, Berthoud, Longmont and Lafayette. Guaranty Bank has 26 locations, including three in each of the cities of Fort Collins and Longmont, two in Greeley, and one each in Loveland, Boulder and Berthoud.
Blue Federal Credit Union was formed from the merger of Wyoming-based Warren Federal Credit Union and Broomfield-based Community Financial Credit Union in May 2016. The new credit union exceeded $800 million in total assets and serves nearly 70,000 members at 11 full-service branch locations in Broomfield, Boulder, Fort Collins, Wellington and Wyoming.
Western States Bank formed from the merger of First Express of Nebraska, the holding company for Western States Bank and Valley Bank and Trust Co., with First Wyoming Bancorp., the holding company for Wyoming State Bank.
The merger, completed in June 2016, combines Western States Bank, Valley Bank and Trust Co., and Wyoming State Bank for a total of $57 million in equity and $525 million in assets. The new bank’s 14 branches operate under the name Western States Bank.
Deal of the Year: Innosphere, Innovation Center of the Rockies merge
Players: Innosphere, Innovation Center of the Rockies
Fort Collins-based Innosphere and Boulder-based Innovation Center of the Rockies in December announced plans to merge, combining a pair of nonprofit incubators that serve tech startups and university innovations along the Front Range.
The two organizations joined forces under the Innosphere flag, with ICR’s assets transferring to Innosphere.
The merger gave Innosphere, which has offices in Fort Collins and Denver, a physical presence in Boulder County, where about a half dozen of its client companies were based.
The two organizations traditionally have targeted two distinct stages of the innovation cycle.
ICR’s niche has been in leveraging a network of hundreds of advisers in the business community to help university technology-transfer offices and researchers understand the business potential of their innovations. ICR would then help develop commercialization strategies for those innovations, sometimes matching entrepreneurs with the technology to launch companies. ICR has commercialization agreements with the University of Colorado Boulder, Colorado State University and the Colorado School of Mines.
Innosphere, meanwhile, has provided a two-year incubator program during which startups are connected with mentors and corporate partners who help the companies hone business plans, become investor-ready and raise capital to accelerate their growth.
Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A), a California-based life-sciences firm, is building a pharmaceutical manufacturing and laboratory facility in Frederick, where it will eventually employ 150 to 200 people, with average annual wages of $77,206. The new facility complements Agilent’s manufacturing operations in Boulder, where the firm’s Nucleic Acids Solutions Division employs about 175 people.
Viega LLC, a German manufacturer of plumbing equipment, is moving its U.S. headquarters to Broomfield from Wichita, Kan. The company is building a 51,000-square-foot office building at 575 Interlocken Blvd. for its headquarters, and a second building of 24,000 square feet that will be used as an education facility containing classrooms, workshops, a cafeteria and exhibition hall.
COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE/GOVERNMENT
Deal of the Year: (Tie) Downtown Greeley city center
Value: $30 million (preliminary)
Players: City of Greeley, private landowners
Greeley is undergoing a wave of development projects downtown, and the city government is at the center of the changes.
As a Doubletree by Hilton hotel arises on city property across from Lincoln Park, a fire station, municipal courts, library and City Hall itself all are in transition, with buildings either under construction for relocating departments or in the planning stages.
The city in 2015 assembled numerous parcels for a new city government complex. Groundbreaking for a new fire station — relocating because of the Doubletree project — occurred last fall, and a new City Hall is in the design phase. Meanwhile, the current City Hall — known as the Round Building — could become home to a downtown branch of the High Plains Library District.
The musical chairs of city departments has seen city departments operating out of temporary locations until the new city complex is built.
COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE/GOVERNMENT
Deal of the Year: (Tie) The Foundry
Value: $76 million
Players: Brinkman Partners, City of Loveland
A public-private project that has been on the drawing board for about six years to redevelop two and one-half blocks in downtown Loveland is moving forward, with the Loveland city council approving the project in December.
Fort Collins-based Brinkman Partners is partnering with the city of Loveland on The Foundry, formerly called South Catalyst, that will include apartments, retail space, a MetroLux theater, community plaza with a large screen, multistory parking garage and possibly a hotel. The project cost is estimated at $76 million.
The property is from East First Street to an alley between East Third and Fourth streets and is bordered to the east and west by North Cleveland and North Lincoln avenues.
Deal of the Year: UCHealth announces plans for Greeley hospital
Value: $135 million
Players: UCHealth, St. Michael’s Commercial Enterprises LLC
UCHealth is bringing more competition to the Northern Colorado health-care scene, with plans announced last year for the four-story, 153,000-square-foot UCHealth Greeley Hospital. The 53-bed facility will anchor a medical campus that also will include a three-story, 112,000-square-foot UCHealth Greeley Health Center. Construction on the hospital is expected to begin in early 2017 with an anticipated opening in late 2018.
The two structures will be built on the west half of 21.5 acres southeast of U.S. Highway 34 and 71st Avenue. UCHealth acquired the vacant land from St. Michael’s Commercial Enterprises LLC in February 2016 for $2.8 million.
Boulder Centre for Orthopedics formed from the merger of two longstanding orthopedic practices. Boulder Orthopedics and Mapleton Hill Orthopedics rebranded as Boulder Centre for Orthopedics, and brought Cathy Higgins onboard to run the company as chief executive. Thirteen physicians — seven from Boulder Orthopedics and six from Mapleton Hill — own the new venture, which occupies 22,000 square feet in the new office building at 4740 Pearl Parkway that was developed by W.W. Reynolds Cos.
Front Range Orthopedics & Spine in Longmont began construction last May on a $12 million, 32,000-square-foot building at 1600 Dry Creek Drive. The building will house 10 orthopedic specialists, have two surgical suites, ambulatory services and a 2,000-square-foot area devoted to physical therapy. The company will continue to operate smaller offices in Frederick and Lafayette.
HOSPITALITY & TOURISM
Deal of the Year (Tie): Doubletree by Hilton arises in downtown Greeley
Value: $31 million
Players: Hilton Worldwide, Hensel Phelps Construction Co., Providence Hospitality Partners, city of Greeley, Downtown Development Authority, Lincoln Park LLC (including local investors)
The 147-room Doubletree by Hilton under construction in downtown Greeley required a true public-private partnership to transform a city block at 919 Seventh St. at the edge of Lincoln Park.
Representatives of the city of Greeley, the city’s Downtown Development Authority, Greeley-based builder Hensel Phelps Construction Co., Denver-based hotel operator Providence Hospitality Partners, Denver-based architecture firm Johnson Nathan Strohe, Hilton Worldwide and members of an all-Greeley investment group either spoke or wielded a shovel at the groundbreaking for the project in April 2016.
The investment group, Lincoln Park LLC, was represented by car dealers Scott Ehrlich and Bob Ghent; oil man Arlo Richardson on behalf of his family’s interest; Colorado Rockies co-owner Charlie Monfort, who along with his brother Dick Monfort are in the group; Jeff Wenaas, president and chief executive of Hensel Phelps, who along with Hensel Phelps are backers; DDA chairman and downtown property owner Bob Tointon; and Dale Boehner, co-owner of Stone Building Products, better known as Signature Stone.
The hotel will include a 14,000-square-foot conference center, which includes a 12,000-square-foot ballroom.
HOSPITALITY & TOURISM
Deal of the Year (Tie): Construction begins on The Elizabeth Hotel
Players: Bohemian Cos., McWhinney, Sage Hospitality, Hensel Phelps Construction Co.
Developers of The Elizabeth Hotel in Old Town Fort Collins plan to open the new facility by fall of 2017.
The project — to also include a restaurant, parking structure and retail space — is being developed by Bohemian Cos., McWhinney and Denver-based Sage Hospitality, which will operate the hotel.
The 164-room upscale hotel is slated to be built at 354 Walnut St., with the parking structure just across Firehouse Alley to the northeast of the hotel at 363 Jefferson St. Construction began in May 2016.
The Elizabeth will be a modern upscale hotel focused on community, music, expert design and service. The hotel will feature locally curated art from students, professors and musicians.
Music will carry through the building with accents in the interior design, programming, amenities and experiences to reflect the scene in the city.
Vail Resorts Inc. (NYSE: MTN) struck a deal to acquire the largest ski resort in North America, Whistler Blackcomb, for $1.1 billion in cash and stock. The purchase of the resort in British Columbia continues Broomfield-based Vail Resorts’ march toward domination of the North American ski industry. Vail already owned three of the five largest resorts on the continent in Park City in Utah (7,300 skiable acres), Vail in Colorado (5,289) and Heavenly in the Lake Tahoe area of California and Nevada (4,800). Whistler checks in with more than 8,000 acres of skiable terrain.
Deal of the Year: Hormel acquires Justin’s LLC
Value: $286 million
Players: Hormel Foods Corp., Justin’s LLC
BOULDER — Justin’s LLC, a Boulder-based company that pioneered a line of snacks rooted in nut butter, last year was acquired for $286 million by food-industry giant Hormel Foods Corp., makers of Skippy peanut butter and a line of meat products.
Austin, Minn.-based Hormel (NYSE: HRL) continued to operate Justin’s out of its office at 736 Pearl St. in Boulder as a subsidiary in its grocery products segment.
Justin’s markets four nut-butter-based snack lines, including spreads, squeeze packs, peanut butter cups and snack packs.
“I look forward to working with the Hormel Foods team, a company that shares our passion for innovation, quality and creating the best possible consumer experience,” Justin Gold, who founded Justin’s in 2004 by making nut butters in a food processor in his home kitchen and selling them at the Boulder Farmers Market, said when the deal was announced.. “My goal has always been to build something truly special, and Hormel Foods is the right partner to make this an enduring and far-reaching brand.”
Denver-based WhiteWave Foods Co. (NYSE: WWAV), which bases its Americas Food and Beverage segment in Broomfield, has been working on a deal to sell the company to French dairy giant Danone SA, in a $10 billion deal. The deal is still pending, however, with the company saying that it could be finalized at the end of the first quarter 2017. WhiteWave was founded in Boulder in 1977 by Steve Demos.
Door to Door Organics, based in Louisville, announced in June plans to merge with Relay Foods, based in Charlotteville, Va. The combined company — which is maintaining headquarters in both cities — also announced that it had raised $10 million in equity financing.
Deal of the Year: Scheels breaks ground in Johnstown
Value: $55 million
Players: Scheels, Sampson Construction Co. Inc., town of Johnstown, Carson Development Inc., Chrisland Real Estate Cos.
Sporting goods retailer Scheels began construction early last year on a 260,000-square-foot sporting goods store in Johnstown, which it plans to open in September 2017. The store will be located at 4755 Ronald Reagan Blvd. will will take up 18 acres in Johnstown Plaza, the retail portion of the 500-acre 2534 development located at the southeast corner of Interstate 25 and U.S. Highway 34.
The store will feature more than 95 specialty shops including running gear, hunting and firearms, fishing, golf, skis, bikes, kayaking, all run as individual businesses.
“This will be the Disneyland of sporting goods stores,” said Steve D. Scheel, chairman of Scheels All Sports, a privately held, employee-owned and operated chain of stores headquartered in Fargo, N.D.
Special attractions at the store in Johnstown will include a 16,000-gallon aquarium, 65-foot Ferris wheel, wildlife mountain, shooting galleries and an in-store golf simulator.
Ikea, the Swedish home-furnishings retailer, purchased 120 acres in Broomfield for its second Colorado store. The store will be located on the northwest corner of Interstate 25 and Colorado Highway 7. Ikea officials are publicizing a timeline for the store, but city officials say they anticipate an opening in 2018 or 2019.
Lucky’s Market, based in Niwot, announced in April 2016 that it had formed a “strategic partnership” with grocery giant Kroger Co., parent of King Soopers and City Market stores in Colorado. Lucky’s officials were quick to point out that Kroger’s “meaningful investment” was just that — an investment, and not an acquisition. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Deal of the Year: Ball acquires rival Rexam
Value: $6.1 billion
Players: Ball Corp., Rexam PLC
Metal beverage-can manufacturing giant Ball Corp. in July 2016 completed the acquisition of rival Rexam PLC, with the final purchase price coming in at $6.1 billion in cash and equity.
The deal also included Broomfield-based Ball’s assumption of $2.4 billion of Rexam debt, as well as the divestment of about 20 plants around the world to Ardagh Group for $3.1 billion in cash to help satisfy regulators.
The deal maked Ball the largest maker of beverage cans in the world., with 18,700 employees on five continents and pro forma 2015 net sales for the combined company of about $11 billion. The company now operates 75 metal beverage manufacturing facilities and joint ventures.
Ball’s headquarters will remain in Broomfield.
RockyNet, a Boulder-based data-center company, has completed a merger with Louisville-based Massive Networks. Financial details of the deal were not available. Paul Mako, who founded Boulder-based RockyNet in 1996, sold it to Dallas-based Allied Riser Corp. in 2000 and then bought it back in 2001, said Massive and RockyNet have been working as partner companies for the past few years.
Zayo Group Holdings Inc. (NYSE: ZAYO) announced in December that it has reached a deal to acquire Vancouver, Wash.-based Electric Lightwave for $1.42 billion in cash. Electric Lightwave, formerly known as Integra Telecom, operates mostly in the western United States.