Castle Harlan, Branford Castle buy Sunless from Riverside Co

The technology for spray tanning has evolved to such an extent that users no longer need fear the dreaded orange hue, according to John S. Castle, president and CEO of Branford Castle. “If done right, the spray tan is better than a natural look,” said Castle. “It’s even, it’s beautiful. It’s a great look.”

“There’s been a tremendous amount of progress in the last 10 years,” said Eric Schwartz, a Castle Harlan managing director. “Now a lot of time you can’t tell it’s a spray tan.”

Castle and Schwartz made the comments after the two firms announced their buy of Sunless Inc. The deal closed Aug. 13. Financial terms weren’t announced. Riverside Co was the seller.

Sunless makes and markets spray tanning equipment including the booths used by salons, fitness clubs and other retail channels. The Macedonia, Ohio company also supplies handheld spray tanning equipment and solutions for users to manually apply full-body spray tans. Brands include Mystic Tan, Norvell and VersaSpa. Sunless employs about 100 people, executives said.

Castle said he’s very familiar with the spray tan industry since people close to him have “tanned” for years. When the Sunless deal came in, Castle said he recognized how the sector has developed and was “ready for prime time.” Castle admitted that he’s tried spray tans, along with family members and the team at Branford.

“A good spray tan these days doesn’t leave you orange at all,” Castle said. “What is really amazing is how easy it actually is. It will make people look better than if they’d been in sun.”

Castle estimated that a spray tan in New York City costs about $30 to $40 and lasts about a week.

The sale represents an eight-year hold for Riverside Co, which acquired Sunless in August 2011. (SunTrust advised Riverside on the Sunless sale.) Riverside, a middle market firm, has been fundraising for its latest flagship, the Wall Street Journal reported in November. The Cleveland firm is seeking $1.5 billion for Riverside Capital Appreciation Fund VII, the story said.

Riverside could not be reached for comment.


In 2015 Castle Harlan shocked the industry when it decided not to raise a sixth fund, Buyouts reported. It currently operates deal-by-deal, Schwartz said. Founded in 1987, the once storied PE firm is managing some of its legacy funds, he said. Its current portfolio includes Shelf Drilling, Tensar Corp, Titan Production Equipment, Gold Star Foods and Caribbean Restaurants.

Schwartz said there is a “very good chance” that Castle Harlan may raise another fund. The PE firm has closed several stand-alone investments in the past few years, he said. Castle Harlan is most active in the consumer, industrial and energy sectors. Its investments can range anywhere from $30 million equity to $100 million equity, Schwartz said. “It would make sense to raise a blind pool fund for multiple deals,” he said.

For Branford Castle Partners, the PE firm is investing out of its first fund that closed on $116.9 million in October 2016. (Branford started out as the family office of John Castle. Branford is now a PE firm that focuses on the microcap private market.) A generalist, Branford seeks to invest in companies with $75 million to $100 million in enterprise value.

Branford expects to make one more platform acquisition before it begins marketing for its second fund, a source said. The firm is expected to seek $250 million for Fund II; a first close is expected in September, the person said.

Correction: A prior version of this story said that John Castle is the president and CEO of Castle Harlan. That is incorrect. John S Castle is president and CEO of Branford Castle. John K. Castle, his father, is chairman and CEO of Castle Harlan and chairman of Branford Castle. The story has been changed.

Action Item: For more information, contact John Castle by emailing him here.