Levinger Acquires Speidel

Fred Levinger, the former CEO of Colibri, has acquired certain assets of Speidel, Inc., the East Providence, R.I.-based manufacturer of watchbands, watches, and other accessories.

Levinger, who sold his majority interest in Colibri to a private-equity group in June 2005, had retained a 20 percent interest in that company and remained as non-executive chairman of the board for a period of time. He subsequently resigned both that position and his position on the board of directors entirely, and, in early January 2007, sold the remainder of his shares back to Colibri.

“Since June 2005, I’ve been semi-retired, but I think I’m going to flunk retirement. We’re masochists in this business,” he quipped in an exclusive interview with JCK.
With his acquisition of Speidel’s watchband and retail assets, he will become chairman and chief executive officer. Jeff Massotti, Speidel’s current president, will remain as president and chief operating officer.

Speidel’s men’s and women’s jewelry and identification bracelet assets were excluded from the sale. Included, however, are its three retail stores, operating under the name Providence Watch Hospital. All are in Rhode Island.

The ironic twist to this story is that Levinger’s father, Paul, was the owner of Speidel in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, and was the inventor of its famous Twist-O-Flex metal expansion band. “It really has come full circle,” the younger Levinger said.
Speidel has been in business since 1904, and currently has about 2500 accounts. Most of those are independents, but some majors do carry the line.

“The Speidel model is very different from Colibri,” he said. “The brand name is an old name, but it needs promotion. And the best-selling product [Speidel has] is still the Twist-O-Flex band.” It’s not targeted to a fashion customer, and though Levinger estimates the Speidel customer is skewed a bit older than a typical fashion watch customer, he added that technologies available today in terms of [surface] treatments and platings weren’t available 25 years ago, suggesting the line may be in for some updating.
He won’t be turning Speidel into another Colibri, though. “I think you should not just repeat what you’ve done in the past,” he told JCK. “I like niche businesses, especially when they’re niche businesses with a brand name.”