New York is a big state, but the lighting universe can sometimes be small. For example, both companies are located in the Empire State: WAC Lighting is based in the Long Island town of Port Washington, and crystal manufacturer Schonbek Worldwide has long been headquartered in the Upstate New York city of Plattsburgh. Perhaps most importantly, WAC Lighting & Modern Forms principal Dirk Wald is well-versed in Schonbek’s 150-year history and work quality as is RJ LeFleur, currently a regional sales manager with WAC/Modern Forms, who also was employed at Schonbek. Unlike some private equity transactions that have occurred within the residential lighting industry, this new alliance is a balanced combination of two family-centric manufacturers —which will most certainly make fans of both brands happy.
According to WAC Lighting, the acquisition encompasses all operating assets related to the Schonbek™ brand from Swarovski Lighting, Ltd. which includes the domestic manufacturing plant that will remain in Plattsburgh.
WAC – which is already a leading manufacturer of LED architectural, task, and decorative lighting, as well as smart ceiling fans under Modern Forms – now own and operate a key U.S.-based factory that will expand its domestic manufacturing capabilities to include fabrication, finishing, and assembly.
In addition to manufacturing Schonbek lighting as it has for decades, the Plattsburgh factory will now include made-to-order and custom products for all of the brands in the WAC portfolio, namely Modern Forms, dweLED, WAC Lighting, LIMITED, and AiSPiRE. The domestic factory will also play a strategic role in designing new products and developing new luxury finishes for all brands. This synergy underscores WAC’s commitment to vertical-integration and market expansion.
For its part, Schonbek brings well-established distribution in Europe, Australia, and the Middle East to the table where WAC does not yet have a presence. This strategic acquisition can be expected to be a precursor to an introduction of the W Group companies into those markets.
“If not for the time Dirk spent at Schonbek and then Swarovski, WAC would not have been approached to carry on the Schonbek tradition,” notes Shelley Wald about her partner and co-CEO of WAC, Dirk Wald, adding, “But veterans of the lighting industry will likely see the union of WAC and Schonbek as a natural progression.”
According to Dirk Wald, an industry visionary who co-founded Modern Forms, dweLED, WAC Landscape, LIMITED, and AiSPiRE brands, “We are excited to acquire the Schonbek brand of luxury crystal lighting and collaborate with the talented people in Plattsburgh to continue this proud tradition.
After July 1st, there will be a period of investment in the operations necessary to secure the future in Plattsburgh, beginning with a new product launch that we have been planning for several months in anticipation of this acquisition. Leveraging WAC’s strengths in nimble product development, the new Schonbek product launch – which will be unveiled simultaneously in New York City and Montreal this coming Fall – will represent the largest product introduction in the history of Schonbek.”
“My family and I were thrilled to hear this news,” says Andrew Schonbek. “Working with Dirk was a joy, as I witnessed first-hand his creative energy, passion for the product, impeccable design sense, and understanding and advocacy of customers. I predict that these unique talents will soon find expression in a creative renaissance at Schonbek that will once again position it as a leading, cutting-edge brand. There’s nobody I know of who’s better positioned than Dirk and WAC to carry forward the legacy that four generations of Schonbeks labored to build since 1870.”
Completion of the transaction is subject to various closing conditions and is expected to be completed by June 30. Terms of this purchase were not disclosed.