© ADAM MACINNIS – THE NEWS
A.W. Leil Cranes, a company whose equipment is visible to those driving by exit 26 on the Trans Canada 104, has been sold to SeaFort Capital.
One of Pictou County’s largest privately owned companies has new owners.
SeaFort Capital Inc. has partnered with senior managers Larry MacDonald and Robert Fraser to acquire A.W. Leil Holdings Limited and its related operating entities.
“It’s been a lot of fun, but I guess it’s time to move on to another chapter,” said Allison Leil Sr. who started the company in 1958 with a ten-tonne crane he describes as 75 per cent homemade.
A.W. Leil is now a leading Atlantic Canadian crane rental and lift services business. The company operates a fleet of more than fifty cranes under the trade names A.W. Leil, Sagadore Cranes and Cape Breton Cranes, and has five offices and more than sixty employees.
“We are excited to invest in an established Nova Scotia business alongside experienced and dedicated operating partners,” said Rob Normandeau, president of SeaFort. “A.W. Leil boasts a committed group of skilled employees and a modern fleet of cranes. We intend to continue the legacy that Allison Leil Sr. and his family have established through decades of reliable performance.”
As part of the agreement, everyone in the company will keep their jobs, Leil said. He said that was one of his main concerns because the employees have put so much into the company.
“You’re only as good as your people,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how good your gear is if you don’t have good people on it.”
Over the 54 years since he started the company, Leil said he’s developed a deep familiarity with the people and the equipment that made up his company. From working on houses to windmills and large jobs on the waterfront, he’s watched the company grow to a size he never dreamed of when he was a young man working up north and scheming how to start his own company. At 78, though he said it was time to let it develop in someone else’s hands.
“The company has potential to grow big time yet,” he said.
MacDonald said he and Robert Fraser are happy for this chance to partner with SeaFort.
“We will continue to run the business out of our Pictou County head office, but will now have access to advice and assistance from SeaFort on matters related to A.W. Leil’s strategic direction and future growth,” said MacDonald. “We share a strong commitment to safety and a belief in excellent customer service. This transaction will provide a seamless transition to a new ownership structure, which is great news for employees and for customers.”
While he admits he’s a bit sad to let go of the company, Leil said he’s glad to see it will be owned by a company with Pictou County interest.
“I am confident that they will treat our people fairly and uphold our values as they work to grow and develop the business,” Leil said.
Leil and his son Allison Leil Jr. will both stay on as consultants with the business for a year.
Halifax-based SeaFort Capital makes controlling investments in small and medium sized Canadian businesses and partners with experienced managers to build value. SeaFort is a private company governed by the following directors: Scott Brison, Scott McCain, Michael Milligan, Rob Normandeau, Donald Sobey and Rob Sobey. SeaFort looks to invest in Canadian companies with earnings of between $2 million and $10 million that have a strong tangible asset base and operate in an “old economy” industry, such as manufacturing, distribution or equipment services.
Normandeu said A.W. Leil Cranes fit the description of what they were looking for. He said they reviewed more than 100 companies across Canada and made only 12 offers.
Normandeu and Leil both declined saying what the sale price was, with Normandeu saying only that it was fair.