Leadership team, private equity firm acquire Coker Group

US-based vintage and classic tyre manufacturer the Coker Group has new owners. Four years after the death of company founder Harold Coker, the Coker family has sold the business to Wade Kawasaki, the company’s president and chief executive officer, and the current Coker Group leadership team in partnership with private equity firm Irving Place Capital.

The Coker Group consists of the Coker Tire, Wheel Vintiques, Universal Vintage Tire, Phoenix Race Tires, Specialty Wheel and Roadster Wire Wheel brands. Its sale comes after five years of continuous growth for the Coker Group under Wade, who will remain at the helm of the company. The Coker Group will continue to operate under the same leadership team and staff that helped drive that growth while expanding both its range of products and its portfolio of companies.

“I would like to thank Corky Coker for his decades of leadership at Coker Tire and for the confidence and trust he has placed in me as I have led the company and positioned it for the next chapter,” said Wade Kawasaki. “We intend to accelerate growth with our partners at Irving Place Capital as we expand into newer models and markets while continuing to serve the traditional restoration market that has been our home for six decades. Coker Group will continue to provide our customers with the same best-in-class products, customer service that they know to expect and we look forward to creating more jobs, offering more products and continuing the Coker Group legacy together.”

Second generation Coker Tire leader Corky Coker will retain ownership of Honest Charley Speed Shop and Chestnut Properties, which he will continue to manage with his children. Corky’s father, Harold Coker, founded Coker Tire in 1958 as a local tyre retailer. The business grew over the years until Corky took the reins and began aggressively expanding the product line to support the booming restoration market. The company grew its offerings to include products for the hot rod, muscle car, motorcycle, motorsports and import markets.

“After my retirement in 2014, the Coker Group flourished under the leadership of Wade and his team,” Corky Coker said. “Coker Group has been and will continue to be committed to our core vintage customer and I have full confidence that this next step will be terrific for the company and the employees who helped us build the business. The collector car market is evolving, and with the current surge in interest in 1970s, 1980s and even 90s vehicles, no one is better suited to expand the company strategically than Wade, who has always had a deep appreciation for these vehicles.”

Irving Place Capital is an active investor in the consumer, industrial and packaging sectors, including the high-performance vehicle aftermarket through its ownership of Dynojet Research. Irving Place Capital co-managing partner Phil Carpenter worked with aftermarket veteran Dan Gresham and Wade Kawasaki on this transaction.

“We are excited to work with Wade and the Coker Group – this partnership positions the company for long-term growth both domestically and internationally,” Carpenter said. “The Coker family built a brand and a portfolio of companies that are beloved by enthusiasts around the world. By partnering with Wade and his team we will together advance that legacy well into the future.”

Coker Tire Company, based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, is said to be the world’s largest manufacturer/supplier of collector vehicle and motorcycle tyres. The company works with distributors in more than 30 countries and supplies tyres and wheels for many applications, producing cross-ply and radial tyres under brand names such as Firestone, Michelin, U.S. Royal and BFGoodrich.

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