The artificial-turf wars may soon heat up.
Sprinturf, a Wayne developer and installer of synthetic turfs, has been acquired in a $10 million buyout led by a New York private-equity firm and Philadelphia philanthropist H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest.
The new owners have assembled an experienced management team and board, with the goal of grabbing a bigger chunk of the growing synthetic-turf business.
DellaCamera Capital Management, of New York, and Lenfest together bought a majority interest in Sprinturf and provided $10 million in financing.
The deal, which closed Friday, was organized by the Musser Group, of Wayne, and its chief executive officer Warren V. "Pete" Musser.
Sprinturf's board includes Musser, founder and former CEO of Safeguard Scientifics Inc., and Dick Vermeil, former head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. Thomas C. Lynch, former superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, will be chairman.
Stanley H. Greene, longtime telecommunications and cable TV executive and entrepreneur, is Sprinturf's new president and CEO.
"We expect to be No. 1 in the industry," said Greene, who is already working at Sprinturf. "Right now, we are No. 2 in market share." (Number one is rival FieldTurf Tarkett in Canada.)
"This is going to be fun. Everyone is excited about taking it to another level," said Greene, who worked for Bell of Pennsylvania from 1978 to 1990, when he joined Lenfest at Suburban Cable. Sprinturf has 65 employees and reported $35 million in sales last year. The company expects to be profitable this year, Greene said.
This is Sprinturf's second attempt at raising financing in the last year.
In December, shareholders of Millstream II Acquisition Corp., a Wayne company that had raised $27.6 million in an initial public offering to acquire a promising business - any business - in North America, rejected proposals by Millstream management to acquire Sprinturf.
Musser Group, working as a consultant, introduced Sprinturf to Millstream last August.
But a majority of Millstream shareholders voted against the plan on Dec. 21 after one shareholder - a senior vice president of rival FieldTurf Tarkett - filed court papers to block the shareholders' vote.
"We were still acting as advisers to the company, which obviously needed additional financing," Musser said, in an interview. "So we helped raise the $10 million."
Synthetic-turf systems for athletic fields are big business and competition is fierce.
Only 2 percent of all U.S. athletic fields are using synthetic-turf surfaces. "It's a burgeoning market," Musser said. "Everybody is aware you need to do this in order to use your field year-round, and all day, for boys and girls sports. Natural turf just doesn't cut it anymore. It doesn't stay in action long enough."
Installations of synthetic turf for athletic fields doubled from 400 in 2003 to about 800 in 2005, according to an industry trade group. Sales are expected to exceed $1.5 billion by 2012, according to a research firm, Applied Market Information Ltd.
Sprinturf customers have included the Philadelphia Eagles, Major League Soccer team D.C. United, a half-dozen universities, including the University of Pennsylvania, and 150 high schools.
Sprinturf's previous CEO, Henry Julicher, will be an adviser, Musser said.