LA firm buys RI pen company AT Cross; new owner cuts jobs

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The venerable Rhode Island pen company A.T. Cross has been sold once again.

Transom Capital Group, a Los Angeles private-equity firm, said Thursday it has acquired Cross from Clarion Capital Partners, the New York private-equity firm that had bought Cross in 2013 for $60 million.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

In response to questions from Eyewitness News, Transom Capital confirmed the company is cutting jobs at A.T. Cross as part of the deal.

“The goal for this transaction is to position the company for future, sustainable growth,” Transom said in a statement. “Toward that end, Transom and Cross executives developed a comprehensive restructuring plan; most employees were retained as part of this process, and some were not.”

“While steps such as this are never easy, they are necessary for Cross to remain the venerable brand that it has become, and we look forward to the next phase in the evolution of this great brand,” Transom said.

Transom also said it will keep Cross’s current management team in place and plans to invest new capital in the business, which in 2014 added the former BIC Group pen brand Sheaffer.

“This transaction represents an inflection point in our strategy to grow the Cross and Sheaffer brands,” A.T. Cross CEO Robert Baird said in a statement. “Our brand and product strategies are greatly enhanced going forward with access to growth capital.”

The deal comes less than a year after Gov. Gina Raimondo and other Rhode Island leaders celebrated A.T. Cross’s relocation from Lincoln to Promenade Street in Providence. The company had 105 workers at the time, with plans to hire 35 more, state officials said.

A.T. Cross was awarded $1.9 million in state subsidies to help pay for the move to Providence, but R.I. Commerce Corporation spokesman Matt Sheaff said Thursday the company has not received any of that money at this point because the incentives are tied to job benchmarks it has not yet achieved.

A.T. Cross was founded in Rhode Island in 1846. “Growing businesses, especially ones with such deep and storied history in our state, is essential to Rhode Island’s comeback,” Raimondo said last year.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook