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November 12, 2018 | last updated November 12, 2018 3:03 pm

Planet Dog is sold to Denver-based distributor of pet products

Photo / Jim Neuger
Photo / Jim Neuger
Colleen McCracken, Planet Dog's CEO and partner, with Tasker, her Yorkshire terrier, a regular at the Westbrook headquarters. The wholesale operations of the company have been acquired by Outward Hound, a portfolio company of a private equity firm based in Boston.

About Outward Hound

Outward Hound is a J.W. Childs Associates Portfolio Co. that is an award-winning innovator, creator, manufacturer and distributor of the highest quality toys, games, gear and feeders for dogs and cats.

About J.W. Childs Associates

J.W. Childs is a Boston-based private equity firm focused on investing in middle-market growth companies. Since inception in 1995, J.W. Childs has invested in excess of $3.5 billion of equity capital in more than 45 companies across the consumer, specialty retail and health care industries. The firm says its success has been built on "its industry focus and the extensive operating expertise of its partners."

The wholesale operations of Planet Dog, a Westbrook-based dog-products company with a retail site in Portland, have been acquired by Outward Hound, a portfolio company of a private equity firm.

Terms of the acquisition, which closed on Oct. 16, were not disclosed by Outward Hound, which described itself in a news release as a "dog-focused pet-products company" that was acquired in December 2017 by J.W. Childs Associates, a Boston-based private equity firm focused on the specialty retail and consumer products sectors.

The acquisition is only for the wholesale business, which employs 13 people, some of whom are likely to be offered jobs with Outward Hound. The change in ownership will not affect the retail store on Marginal Way, which employs 15 people.

Planet Dog CEO Colleen McCracken told Mainebiz she will continue to run the retail operation.

Maine Startup Insider, which broke the story on Saturday, reported that Outward Hound has been acquiring dog-focused product companies for the past several years.

In the three years before being acquired by J.W. Childs, Outward Hound made four acquisitions: Petstages, Dublin Dog, Nina Ottosson and Bionic, according to Maine Startup Insider. Planet Dog is its third acquisition since being acquired — having been proceeded in July by the acquisition of Wholesome Pride, a dog-treat company, and in August by Charming Pet, another dog-toy company. All these brands now live under the Outward Hound umbrella.

On its website, Denver-based Outward Hound states that its vision is "to build a great company, make cool products and lead the world in dog and cat supplies." Statement from Planet Dog's founder

Founded by Alex Fisher in 1997, with headquarters in Westbrook, Planet Dog has built its reputation by selling durable, eco-friendly, made-in-USA toys for dogs, including the Orbee-Tuff line of toys.

"We are excited to transition the Planet Dog brand and our socially responsible mission to the Outward Hound team," Alex Fisher, the company's founder and chief creative officer, said in the news release announcing the acquisition. "They have the innovation, experience and financial resources to take our brand and mission of community, environment and people to the next level. We look forward to seeing their team get dogs wagging their tails around the world using our products."

Kyle Hansen, described in a news release as Outward Hound's "chief woof officer," credited Planet Dog with creating "some of the most well-known and innovative made-in-USA products in the pet industry."

"Our new partnership strengthens our goal to become the leading vendor in the dog toy category" he added.

Maine Startup Insider, citing a 2017 report from the research firm Packaged Facts, reported the market for dog and cat toys now exceeds $1 billion.

In an October 2017 interview with Mainebiz, Planet Dog partner and CEO Colleen McCracken said about 75% to 80% of the company's business is wholesale, and the rest is from its flagship store, at 211 Marginal Way in Portland.

She said innovation has been the key to the company's success, noting that Planet Dog typically develops between 10 and 12 products a year.

"They're looking for better and more innovative products," she said of dog owners. "It's no longer OK to just give your dog a ball, they want to have the newest and the best."

Planet Dog does not disclose revenues, but has said that donates 2% of every sale to the Planet Dog Foundation, which funds organizations that raise, train and place service dogs. It has given $1.6 million to the foundation since 2006 and hosts an annual Planet Dog Ball Charity Ball in Portland.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include comments of CEO Colleen McCracken clarifying that Outward Hound only acquired Planet Dog's wholesale operations.

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