DISTRIBUTORS/CO-OPS

Dealer profile: K&B True Value

BY Ken Clark

The way Jared Littmann explains it, not much has changed at K&B True Value in Annapolis, Md., since ACON Investments closed the deal on its 70% purchase of True Value Company.

“The only change has been that instead of an illiquid asset on our balance sheet, I have cash in the bank,” he told HBSDealer, in an e-mail interview.

Littmann, owner of K&B True Value, said the post-acquisition, day-to-day flow at K&B has been “business as usual.” And he expects more of the same. “My customers won’t see any difference,” he said. “There is nothing tangibly different that the employees would notice. We place our orders as we always have and continue to get on-time deliveries of our product.”

Another thing that remains similar is his participation on the co-op’s board. Here’s how that works: The ACON deal created two boards – a board of managers for the new True Value Co., and a board of directors for the co-operative’s 30% share in the new company. Littmann will serve as chairman of latter board.

Also with seats on the new co-op board are Brent Burger, VP of the co-op; Alan Bryant, treasurer; and Brian Webb, secretary. Separately, Burger will have a seat on the new company’s board, along with the new ownership and True Value Company CEO. Burger, a True Value dealer with several stores in Maine, was chairman of the True Value co-op before the acquisition.

What will keep the co-op board busy? Littmann lists the basic responsibilities:

  • Ensure that the co-op’s obligations under its charter and by-laws are met;
  • Exercise oversight over the actions taken on behalf of the co-op by the True Value Company
  • Exercise oversight over the finances and patronage dividend activity of the co-op
  • Advocate on behalf of the co-op when appropriate, and
  • Ensure that the co-op has the requisite directors and officers to carry on its business.
Jared Littmann

Jared Littmann

In addition, the board and officers will be available for any new issues that arise, for communication with the True Value Company, and to shareholders of the co-op, he said.

Littmann says the ACON transaction puts True Value on the right path for growth. It creates the only major hardware supplier with a nationally recognized name brand without an equity requirement. And it returned more than $220 million in cash to dealers.

Not everyone in True Value nation is satisfied with the ACON deal.  As Littmann sees it, that was to be expected. Stores in the True Value network range in format from rural to urban; they range in size from small to large; and they range in ownership from new investors to multiple- generations of a family. Even with this diversity, more than 80% of votes cast were in favor of the transaction, Littmann said.

He added: “Whether an individual shareholder supported the transaction or not, the board and officers of the True Value Cooperative will continue doing its best to advocate for the entire cooperative and represent its shareholders,” Littmann said.

Formerly an associate county attorney, Littmann came to True Value’s board in late 2013. His background includes service on the Annapolis City Council as an alderman, chair of the Environmental Matters Committee, and member of the Housing and Human Welfare Committee.

No longer in a government role, Littmann has more time on his hands to focus on business. “Fortunately, there is a terrific core of managers at the store who took on more responsibilities and authority when I was attending city business – and that has continued,” he said. “Because that didn’t change when my public service ended, I now have more time to work on big picture issues like the long-term growth of the business.”

As for K&B True Value, a 2015 HBSDealer Hardware All Star from the state of Maryland,  Littmann hasn’t made a final decision on how to use his share of the acquisition payout. He’s considering using the funds to pay down the loan of his original purchase of the business.

“I’m not expecting major changes for K&B True Value,” he said.

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