AEA invests in Meritus Gas Partners

AEA Investors has made an investment in Meritus Gas Partners, a new packaged gas distribution platform.

AEA Investors has made an investment in Meritus Gas Partners, a new packaged gas distribution platform. No financial terms were disclosed for the investment that was made in conjunction with the formation of Meritus via a partnership with Gas Innovations and Atlas Welding Supply Co.

PRESS RELEASE

NEW YORK, Jan. 4, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Meritus Gas Partners (“Meritus”) announced its formation today via a partnership with Willingham Welding Solutions, Inc. (d/b/a Gas Innovations) (“Gas Innovations”) and Atlas Welding Supply Co., Inc. (“Atlas”), in conjunction with a growth investment from AEA Investors’ (“AEA”) Small Business Fund (“AEA SBF”). Meritus is a platform led by a team of accomplished industry executives to partner with best-in-class independent packaged gas distributors across North America. Meritus intends to assemble a national federation of high-quality independent distributors of industrial, medical, and specialty gases and welding and safety supplies, located in diverse geographies and serving growing end-markets.

The Meritus executive team is led by industry executives Scott Kaltrider (Chairman) and Rob D’Alessandro (Vice-Chairman). Mr. Kaltrider has held various senior executive operating roles at Praxair Inc. over a 35+ year career, including serving as President of Praxair Distribution Inc. (“PDI”), its packaged gas business in the U.S., from 2013-2016. Mr. D’Alessandro, former owner of independent distributor Welco Gases Corp. in Newark, NJ, served as PDI’s Vice-President of Corporate Development for nearly 15 years, where he was the principal architect of the acquisition and operational integration of approximately 100 independent distributors. Mike Masha, former CFO of Messer MG Industries and mid-Atlantic distributor GTS-Welco, will serve as Meritus’ Chief Financial Officer, while Dave Marek will serve as its Director of Business Development following a 40-year career in the industry.

“We are pleased to announce our new partnership with AEA SBF,” Mr. Kaltrider said. “AEA is a pioneer in the private equity industry with a sterling reputation and long track record of successfully collaborating with founders and entrepreneurs to scale their businesses. Together, we see an opportunity to provide transformational capital to well-positioned businesses across the packaged gas industry. We will partner with exceptional businesses and management teams, allow them to remain independent and entrepreneurial, and support them to accelerate growth, improve business quality and enhance value. We will offer the owners the opportunity to roll over a meaningful amount of their equity into our holding company to allow them to share in the success of the overall platform. We believe this approach will resonate with owners who are seeking liquidity today but are committed to the industry and want to be part of something larger and more dynamic.”

Meritus was formed concurrently through the partnership between Gas Innovations and Atlas. Gas Innovations and Atlas will continue to operate independently under their own local brands. Financial terms of the transactions were not disclosed.

Gas Innovations, strategically located at the mouth of the Houston Ship Channel in La Porte, Texas, produces, purifies, packages, and distributes a wide range of high purity specialty industrial gases through a deployable asset base to customers in the U.S. and internationally. Gas Innovations’ principal owners and Co-Founders Ashley Madray and Jason Willingham will maintain significant equity ownership in Meritus and will operate as President and Vice President of Gas Innovations, respectively, while serving on Meritus’ Board of Directors. Mr. Madray brings nearly four decades of experience in the industrial gas and hydrocarbons space and Mr. Willingham brings more than 26 years of experience in the industrial gas and welding industry.

Operating in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, Alabama for more than 75 years, Atlas is a leading distributor of industrial, specialty, and medical gases as well as welding and cutting supplies. Atlas is led by owners Bill Visintainer and James Cain who will maintain significant equity ownership in Meritus and continue to operate in their current capacities at Atlas. Mr. Visintainer has served as President of Atlas for more than 12 years, and Mr. Cain has served as Vice President and CFO during the same period. With more than 40 years of industry experience, Mr. Visintainer has not only served as the President of the Gases and Welding Distributers Association (GAWDA) and on the Foundation Board of the American Welding Society (AWS), but also was a founder of the Airco Distributer Association (ADA), now known as Messer Distributer Group (MDG). Mr. Visintainer will join the Meritus Board of Directors. Mr. Cain brings 12 years of industry and leadership experience with the ADA, Linde Distributor Association, MDG and GAWDA.

“We are fortunate to have two exceptional businesses to launch our exciting initiative,” Mr. D’Alessandro said. “Over the past 20 years, Gas Innovations has established itself as the industry’s primary source for specialty hydrocarbon gases. Its record of superior service, broad range of quality products, technical abilities and deep asset base distinguishes it among other specialty gas companies. It has a unique supply chain position and strong and entrenched collaborative relationships with industrial gas majors, independent distributors, and end users alike, and the owners we are aligning with have stellar reputations throughout our industry. We are proud to have them as our partners as we seek to expand our footprint across North America.”

“We are also impressed by Atlas’ ‘customer-first’ culture and demonstrated track record of exceptional customer service and reliability, as well as its commitment to safety,” Mr. D’Alessandro added. “We believe Atlas is well-positioned to continue its strong growth trajectory both organically and through additional M&A in both Alabama and the surrounding region. We have great appreciation for the professionalism and dedication of Atlas’ talented team and its focus on providing customer solutions backed by best-in-class products and service.”

“We chose to partner with Meritus because of its relevant industry expertise, experience in scaling similar types of businesses, and strong cultural fit,” Mr. Madray said. “We are confident that together we will grow Gas Innovations while simultaneously building a national federation of great businesses with like-minded entrepreneurs.”

“The opportunity to partner with Gas Innovations to form Meritus is very exciting for us,” Mr. Visintainer said. “We look forward to partnering with a team that will empower us to grow Atlas to a level we may not have been able to achieve alone. We believe the packaged gas industry remains highly fragmented, which presents a significant consolidation opportunity. We are committed to the industrial gas industry and are now able to diversify our investment into businesses in other geographies and sectors across the U.S., and ultimately, the continent.”

About Gas Innovations
Gas Innovations was founded in 2002 with the goal of providing industrial gas producers and distributors a dependable, independent wholesale supply partner. Since its founding, the company has grown to become a world wide supplier of high purity hydrocarbons, refrigerant gases and specialty gases. Gas Innovations is located at the mouth of the Houston Ship Channel, La Porte, TX. Visit us online at http://www.gasinnovations.com.

About Atlas Welding Supply
Founded in 1944, Atlas Welding Supply is leading distributor of industrial, specialty, and medical gases as well as welding and cutting supplies. With locations in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Atlas is a trusted partner for everything from supplying the appropriate gas and troubleshooting equipment to providing customized solutions that guarantee customers’ maximum efficiency and offering seamless customer service. For more information, please visit https://atlaswsco.com.

About AEA Investors LP
AEA Investors LP was founded in 1968 by the Rockefeller, Mellon and Harriman family interests and S.G. Warburg & Co. as a private investment vehicle for a select group of industrial family offices with substantial assets. AEA has an extraordinary global network built over many years which includes leading industrial families, business executives and leaders; many of whom invest with AEA as active individual investors (“Participants”) and/or join its portfolio company boards or act in other advisory roles. Today, AEA’s approximately 90 investment professionals operate globally with offices in New York, Connecticut, London, Munich and Shanghai. The firm manages funds that have over $15 billion of invested and committed capital including the leveraged buyouts of middle market companies and small business companies and mezzanine and senior debt investments. AEA Private Equity invests across three sectors: value added industrials, consumer, and services. The AEA Small Business Funds is a strategy within AEA that currently manages $1.8 billion of invested and committed capital. The team seeks to help grow and transform companies at the lower end of the middle market by sponsoring growing companies with proven management teams and superior business models. For more information, please visit http://www.aeainvestors.com.