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Garneau gets investment lifeline

Recovering from $32 million, company gets new investor and provincial aid

Photo by: Louis Garneau

Earlier this year we reported that popular triathlon brand Garneau had filed for creditor protection. This week the company announced a new investor and brand relaunch.

Louis Garneau Sports Group includes three Canadian brands: Garneau, Sugoi and Sombrio. After what the company described as “the last stage of a tumultuous Grand Tour,” Garneau announced that Montreal-based investment firm Champlain Financial Corporation, will join the group as a new business partner.

The Quebec-based investment corporation adds Garneau to its portfolio of other Canadian retail brands such as Kanuk, La Canadienne and G2MC (Galerie du Meuble, Maison Corbeil and Jardin de Ville).

“We sincerely believe that Louis and his team of seasoned leaders have all the assets required to reinforce the positioning of the Louis Garneau Sports Group as a world leader of cycling apparel, accessories and bikes,” said Pierre Simard, president of Champlain Financial Corporation.

In March, it was revealed that Garneau owes $32 million to more than 500 creditors including other companies, distributors and pro racers. The company was forced to temporarily lay off 66 employees and file for creditor protection. At the time, founder Louis Garenau said his priority was “to keep the head office in Quebec and maintain as many jobs as possible.”

Related: Garneau files for creditor protection

Louis Garneau will remain the majority shareholder of the company, and, as he was able to partner with a Canadian investor, the head offices of the group will continue to be located in St-Augustin-de-Desmaures, Qc.

Help from the government

Louis Garneau Sports Group was also given a loan from Investissement Quebec and financial backing from the National Bank of Canada to solidify the agreement with Champlain Financial Corporation. The provincial support is not surprising—the Garneau brand, sold internationally, is often used as an example of a successful example of Quebecois entrepreneurship.

“Louis Garneau is the story of a family business that has become a true pride for Quebec,” said Geneviève Guilbault, deputy premier, minister of Public Security and minister responsible for the Capitale-Nationale region where the group’s offices are located. “For almost forty years, the company has contributed to the economic development of my district of Louis-Hébert, our Capital-Nationale and the whole province by providing specialized jobs and generating economic benefits. Moreover, Garneau enhances the international recognition of the Province’s know-how and manufacturing expertise by distributing its quality products globally. Like our citizens, I am very happy to see the consolidation of the company activities in our district.”

Photo: Louis Garneau

Garneau is thankful for the support his company will receive. “I know that times are very difficult right now for many Canadians and Quebec companies and I am very grateful for the interest loan from Investissement Quebec,” he said. “I have fought all my career to keep the company in Quebec, Canada. Our province lost a lot of great brands in the last 25 years. Canadians have been very loyal those past few months and I want to thank them for believing in us. I am very proud of our Canadian trilogy of brands: Garneau, Sugoi and Sombio and of their internationally reputation. ”

While Garneau’s background was cycling, the company is also a big player in the triathlon world. Lionel Sanders is one of the company’s sponsored athletes and, until he signed with Canyon bicycles last year, rode a Garneau triathlon bike in addition to his clothing, cycling shoes and helmet sponsorship.

Other big names who have worn Garneau in the past include three-time Ironman world champion Craig Alexander and Canadian couple Heather and Trevor Wurtele.

Looking to the future

The brand’s relaunch will focus on exploiting new technologies and will place a greater emphasis on e-commerce.

“In these times of economic recovery, I encourage all of Quebec to continue to favour local purchasing, ” says Pierre Fitzgibbon, Minister of the Economy and Innovation. “Thanks to its trademarks recognized throughout the world, Louis Garneau Sports Group is a strategic company for the Quebec economy. It is above all an international benchmark in the world of sport and a strong symbol for Quebec entrepreneurship.”