Buckner accepts investment from Markel
By By Alex Dahm and D.Ann Shiffler20 August 2021
Financial holding company Markel has announced its investment of an undisclosed amount in Buckner HeavyLift, a fourth generation crane company based in Graham, North Carolina, USA.
Subject to the usual conditions, the transaction is expected to close in the third quarter of 2021.
Commenting on the deal Doug Williams, Buckner CEO, said, “Today Buckner is in a position of strength, and our partnership with Markel adds to that. We gain additional support for our growth ambitions yet change nothing about our approach, remaining the humble, hardworking family we have always been. We are excited to continue as managers and owners of this great business knowing this is the right ‘forever’ decision for Buckner.”
In an exclusive interview with American Cranes & Transport Magazine, a KHL Group magazine, Williams said that he will continue his role as CEO.
“Our family still has significant ownership,” he said. “Markel is an investment partner. They won’t participate in the management of the company, so our team will stay exactly the same, with the long-term plan of turning the reins over to Meredith Williams (current executive vice president of operations and Williams’ daughter) at the appropriate time. We will see the normal transition with Markel’s investment in the company.”
Williams said Buckner had made significant investments in its crane fleet before this transaction.
“This transaction will enhance those plans in a significant way that honestly is beyond our dreams,” he said. “As far as significant markets, we are not going to change the fact that we are a niche heavy lift crawler crane business in any way. This investment may contribute to our focus on markets outside of the US.”
Offshore wind projects and aggressive growth is a big picture goal, Williams said.
As for the development of the deal with Markel, Williams said it began evolving a little more than a year ago and was a result of him having time to look at the bigger picture because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Rather than being so wrapped up in our aggressive growth and day-to-day operations, I was able to slow down and explore some options,” he said. “Initially, it was something that seemed quite foreign to me, but as I explored it more, I began to realize with the right partner, of which Markel is the perfect partner, that it was absolutely right for our employees, customers and vendors.”
What is unique about Markel, Williams said, is that they “are not providing private equity type money, and they don’t operate with that mentality. They stay out of the management of their investments, and they hold on to their investments. They are not in this to spin off the company or spin off their investment. Their history with other company investments proves that.”
Markel has never been involved in the crane business before, and Williams said they don’t plan to be involved other than the investment they have made. He termed Markel as “a significant silent investor.”
“What is quite amazing is that now we are a part of a Fortune 500 company,” Williams said. “We have an $18 billion company behind us. Having the ability to go out and look at future aggressive growth could be exponential.”
While Williams didn’t reveal the type of aggressive growth the company will pursue, further work in the wind market and even the off-shore wind market is a direction in which Buckner HeavyLift was already headed.
“This investment will certainly strengthen our offerings in those and other new markets,” he said. “Our management team will not change, and the Williams family will remain significant owners. Markel’s culture aligns with our culture. This is a win-win.”
Clyde Preston Buckner started CP Buckner Steel in 1947. Starting out in concrete reinforcement work, Buckner now has 200 employees and one of the largest fleets of heavy lift crawler cranes in the world. Much of the company’s work is for large commercial contractors erecting wind turbines, constructing stadiums and factories, in addition to crane rental. Buckner also offers lift planning, field technicians, operators and engineers.
“Through four generations, Buckner has been family owned and operated, serving the complex needs of its customers in the heavy construction industry each and every day,” said Tom Gayner, Markel Corporation co-CEO. “When its customers need a lift – and a heavy one at that – Doug, Meredith, Michael and the entire Buckner team are there to make sure the work is done safely, swiftly and in the spirit of partnership, just as you would expect of a business built for the long haul.”
TM Capital Corp served as financial advisor to Buckner in connection with the transaction.
Buckner HeavyLift placed 7th in the IC50 ranking of the world’s largest crane-owning companies, published in International Cranes and Specialized Transport magazine. The company was ranked 6th on the ACT100 list of top North American crane-owning companies, published by American Cranes & Transport.
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