Blaine Kitchenware

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OCTOBER 8, 2009

TIMOTHY LUEHRMAN
JOEL HEILPRIN

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Blaine Kitchenware, Inc.: Capital Structure

On April 27, 2007, Victor Dubinski, CEO of Blaine Kitchenware, Inc. (BKI), sat in his office reflecting on a meeting he had had with an investment banker earlier in the week. The banker, whom Dubinski had known for years, asked for the meeting after a group of private equity investors made discreet inquiries about a possible acquisition of Blaine. Although Blaine was a public company, a majority of its shares were controlled by family members descended from the firm’s founders together with various family trusts. Family interests were strongly represented on the board of directors as well. Dubinski knew the family had no current interest in selling—on the contrary, Blaine was interested in acquiring other companies in the kitchen appliances space—so this overture, like a few others before it, would be politely rebuffed.

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Nevertheless, Dubinski was struck by the banker’s assertion that a private equity buyer could “unlock” value inherent in Blaine’s strong operations and balance sheet. Using cash on Blaine’s balance sheet and new borrowings, a private equity firm could purchase all of Blaine’s outstanding shares at a price higher than $16.25 per share, its current stock price. It would then repay the debt over time using the company’s future earnings. When the banker pointed out that BKI itself could do the same thing—borrow money to buy back its own shares—Dubinski had asked, “But why would we do that?” The banker’s response was blunt: “Because you’re over-liquid and under-levered. Your shareholders are paying a price for that.” In the days since the meeting, Dubinski’s thoughts kept returning to a share repurchase. How many shares could be bought? At what price? Would it sap Blaine’s financial strength? Or prevent it from making future acquisitions?

Blaine Kitchenware’s Business

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Blaine Kitchenware was a mid-sized producer of branded small appliances primarily used in residential kitchens. Originally founded as The Blaine Electrical Apparatus Company in 1927, it produced then-novel electric home appliances, such as irons, vacuum cleaners, waffle irons, and cream separators, which were touted as modern, clean, and easier to use than counterparts fueled by oil, coal, gas, or by hand. By 2006, the company’s products consisted of a wide range of small kitchen appliances used for food and beverage preparation and for cooking, including several branded lines of deep fryers, griddles, waffle irons, toasters, small ovens, blenders, mixers, pressure cookers, steamers, slow cookers, shredders and slicers, and coffee makers.

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HBS Professor Timothy A. Luehrman and Illinois Institute of Technology Adjunct Finance Professor Joel L. Heilprin prepared this case solely as a basis for class discussion and not as an endorsement, a source of primary data, or an illustration of effective or ineffective management. This case, though based on real events, is fictionalized, and any resemblance to actual persons or entities is coincidental. There are occasional references to actual companies in the narration.

Copyright © 2009 President and Fellows of Harvard College. To order copies or request permission to reproduce materials, call 1-800-545-7685, write Harvard Business Publishing, Boston, MA 02163, or go to http://www.hbsp.harvard.edu. This publication may not be digitized, photocopied, or otherwise reproduced, posted, or transmitted, without the permission of Harvard Business School.

This document is authorized for use only by Atul Singh at JRE Group of Institutions until June 2013. Copying or posting is an infringement of copyright. Permissions@hbsp.harvard.edu or 617.783.7860.

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4040 | Blaine Kitchenware, Inc.: Capital Structure

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