W.C. Bradley's Zebco purchases Salt Lake City outdoor products company

Vortex Outdoors lineup includes backpacks, hunting and fly-fishing equipment

tadams@ledger-enquirer.comSeptember 12, 2008 

W.C. Bradley Co. can add backpacks and hunting equipment to its lineup of outdoor products due to the acquisition of a Salt Lake City company called Vortex Outdoors.

Columbus-based W.C. Bradley said Friday its Zebco Brands subsidiary has purchased privately owned Vortex, a company founded in 1992 as a marketer of items for outdoor enthusiastics.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

"This is a good match for both companies,” Jeff Pontius, Zebco Brands president, said in a statement. "Vortex has achieved success through product innovation and building enthusiasm around their brands, and we have the resources and support structure to help them take that momentum to the next level."

Vortex brands include William Joseph fly-fishing gear, Badlands hunting equipment, Black Ridge packs, Watermark fly-fishing packs and its own Vortex backpacks.

Bill Crawley, founder of Vortex, will continue to run the operation, which will remain in Salt Lake City.

"To watch our brands grow like they have, especially over the past decade, and see what they have become today has been a truly remarkable journey," Crawley said in a statement. "This is a good decision for us, and we're in the best of hands with the Bradley folks.”

Tulsa, Okla.-based Zebco, which dates to 1949, was purchased by W.C. Bradley in 2001. Its fishing equipment brands include Zebco, Quantum, Rhino, Martin, Fin-Nor, Van Staal, Cajun Line. In July, Zebco changed its name, adding "Brands" as part of its strategy of branching out into non-fishing product lines.

Privately owned W.C. Bradley, founded in 1885, sells gas grills and other culinary and recreational equipment. Aside from its flagship Char-Broil brand and Zebo, it owns Lamplight Farms, an outdoor candle division based in Menomonee Falls, Wisc., and the PGA Tour Stop golf equipment store in St. Augustine, Fla.

In Columbus, W.C. Bradley operates a real estate division that currently is redeveloping the old Eagle & Phenix textile mill into luxury loft apartments.

W.C. Bradley employs more than 600 people, about 300 of those in Columbus. It estimates annual revenues of between $500 million and $600 million.

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