Fireman Buys Stake in Newton

The investment firm led and founded by former Reebok CEO Paul Fireman has acquired a minority interest in natural-motion running brand Newton Running Co. The deal represents Fireman Capital Partners’ first investment in the performance footwear world.

Boulder Colo.-based Newton Running, which delivered its first shoes in 2007, is distributed in 225 independent running shops, according to Dan Fireman, founding partner at FCP and son of Paul Fireman. Increasing penetration in those accounts and adding more clients in the specialty channel will be a major focus, he said.

“We like this new trend in running and athletic in general about natural movement. That’s something that’s not going to go away. We’re at the beginning of something here,” he said.

Fireman told Footwear News that FCP, in addition to providing working capital, will lend its sourcing and marketing expertise to increase the brand’s exposure and create more competitively priced product across a broader array of categories. The investment also will allow Newton to improve its product design and engineering. “It’s a great product, but in some ways it’s rudimentary and basic,” Fireman said. “We can help to get it to a design standard that’s competitive with some of the better companies out there.”

Newton founder Jerry Lee agreed. “We’ve done an unbelievable job in creating something people told us we couldn’t do,” he said. “But to bring in somebody who could [invest as well as] help advise, I thought had great value.”

Lee estimated that FCP will invest about $20 million in the brand. In addition, former Reebok execs Dennis Baldwin and Steve Liggett will join Newton’s board of directors and are expected to lend their experience to the team.

“We have a minority stake, but have more than minority rights to influence strategy and operations over time,” Fireman said.

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