Fluidra/Zodiac merge brings out the best in two similar company cultures
In November 2017, Fluidra S.A. and Zodiac Pool Systems announced their intention to merge, closing a $1.5 billion deal in July of this year.
Fluidra was founded in 1969. Then called Astral, the pool component manufacturer was started by four families in Spain. From the ’70s through the ’90s, it expanded across the globe. In the 2000s, it acquired several global brands including U.S.–based Aquaproducts. It entered the Spanish stock exchange in 2007. Its brands included AstralPool, Cepex, CTX Professional and Gre.
The history of Zodiac goes back to the late 1800s, when a Frenchman named Maurice Mallet started making airships. The trade name Zodiac was first registered in 1909. The company diversified from aerospace into inflatable boats, eventually making inflatable pools. Through strategic acquisitions, the company expanded into more pool equipment, bringing on and developing some of the most recognizable brands in the U.S. market, such as Polaris and Jandy. Private equity firm The Carlyle Group held Zodiac for 10 years, creating Zodiac Pool Solutions and splitting it from the marine, aerospace and other industries. Carlyle sold Zodiac to a new investor, Rhône, in 2016.
With both multinational companies focused on the swimming pool industry, there would seem to be overlap between Fluidra and Zodiac.
Fluidra’s wide breadth of products combined with Zodiac’s go-to-market strategies makes a good marriage, says Troy Franzen, managing director, Americas, at Fluidra.
Fluidra also brings additional commercial products to the North American market. The former Zodiac dealt only in the residential space.
“Our dealers are excited,” says Michelle Kenyon, director of marketing at the former Zodiac and new Fluidra. “Many of them work in both the residential and commercial spaces, so they’re looking forward to having easy access to an expanded product offering through a relationship they already trust. Others really appreciate that we’ll have a broader pool of resources to support their success. Everybody wins.”
Fluidra will maintain its global headquarters in Sabadell (Barcelona), Spain and North American headquarters in Vista (San Diego), California. Former Fluidra executive president Eloi Planes will serve as executive chairman of its board of directors, and former Zodiac CEO Bruce Brooks will serve as the new company’s CEO.
“It truly is a merger of equals, however way you look at it,” Franzen says. The companies chose to keep Fluidra as the holding company because of its listing on the Spanish stock exchange and the strength of the brand name globally. “That is the direction and financial arrangement going forward, we will become one company on the Spanish stock exchange.”
After more than a year of working through all the financial and operational logistics, it’s still early stages for integration.
“We worked extremely hard to make this merger happen, and I’m exceptionally proud of the way our team has stepped up to not only make the process as smooth as possible, but also to ensure that our customers were unaffected during this transition,” Kenyon says, adding that it now has more than 5,000 global employees. Kenyon says the company will advance the industry with increasingly innovative products “and have the resources in place to better service our customers with products that are easier to source, install and use.”
North American dealers will see little change — the people and products they work with now will still be available. Kenyon says it wants to make the transition as seamless as possible, so it will continue to operate under the Zodiac name and its product brands won’t change. “We’ll still offer the same brands our customers trust,” like Jandy, Polaris and Zodiac, she says.
“In the new company, one of our values is customer collaboration,” Franzen says. Its North American dealers will see little to no change in terms of key contacts, the brands, the loyalty programs, warranty services and the backend technical support, he adds.
Perhaps the most critical factor in a merger’s success is where Zodiac and Fluidra started.
“Before we started talking about integrating anything, that’s what we were talking about — it was the people side,” Franzen says. “What was most exciting to me and really most encouraging to me was the similarities in the people, the values that they shared and their mission as a company really meshed nicely with the former Zodiac.”
The core values of both former companies and the new Fluidra was and is user-driven and customer-focus.
“Luckily, both organizations share the same values and focus on customer success,” Kenyon says. “That’s the most crucial factor when you bring together two companies.”
“Throughout the process, I’ve been most encouraged by the former management team and the new management teams focus and dedication on our deal and our customer,” Franzen says. “That won’t change. That value was so engrained in both companies that you put the two together, I think it will be great for the industry. Any time you can bring two companies together that have some similarities, some dissimilarities, it only makes the industry stronger. Which will ultimately help our dealers, whether it’s a pool builder, a retailer or a service professional. Ultimately that feeds down to the consumer.”
Jandy Products Will No Longer be Sold Online
On Sept. 28, Zodiac Pool Systems announced that effective Jan. 1, 2019, it would no longer allow its Jandy Pro Series equipment to be sold online. The company will not provide a warranty on products purchased online and requires equipment to be installed and/or serviced by a qualified pool professional. The only exception will be valves, parts and accessories.
“Trade professionals are the backbone of our industry with the training and expertise, the knowledge and the know-how to prescribe to consumers the solutions that are pertinent for their particular pool,” says Michelle Kenyon, vice president of marketing at Zodiac/Fluidra. “We truly believe that the pool professional is the right choice for our brand and our product line and for our company.”
The policy addresses a longstanding issue for pool professionals.
“We get calls on a pretty regular basis asking us, well telling us, I can buy this on Amazon for this amount,” says Bryan Banta, second generation owner of B&B Pools, a pool service, remodeling and repair company in Pompano Beach, Florida. “Usually it’s less than I can buy it for in distribution. At that point, I’ve lost credibility with the customer. I really think that Zodiac and Jandy get it. They realize that service companies need support in this area and they’ve been designing their programs in such a way to help us and give us ways to be successful.”
Jandy launched its Trade Series Exclusive line in 2014 with two products that could only be sold through the trade, not online. Each year it added more products to the Trade Series. In 2018 it was up to 31 skus. “And once we turned from ’18 into ’19, we made the decision to go all in,” Kenyon says. “This has been something that our core team has been developing and working on for a number of years.”
All Jandy equipment is branded as Jandy Pro Series, so all Jandy equipment is included in this new policy.
“I absolutely feel the new Jandy policy will help me,” says Jason Broswell, owner of Pool Service by Jason in Northridge, California. Broswell has worked in the pool industry for 11 years. “The pool owner cannot go online and price shop and ask for a better price because this website has it for this much less. I strongly believe this new policy will help the pool industry. Zodiac’s stance to promote the professional may even carry over into other industries as it gains more notice. Teamwork begins by building trust, I fully trust Zodiac supports me and my company with their decision to remove Jandy products from internet sales.”
To read the rest of the story, and for more information on Jandy’s new policy visit bit.ly/PoolPro-Jandy