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This is written with serious investors in mind, though sometimes they're just drafts in progress. I'm a former reporter, private investigator and institutional equity analyst who digs deep to find niche undervalued and undiscovered securities. I manage money for individuals, institutions and family offices via my business Long Cast Advisers. This blog is part decision-diary, part investment observations and part general musings about Philadelphia sports. It should not be viewed as a solicitation for business or a recommendation to buy or sell securities.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

$EVI: Thoughts on mgmt changes (w/ $WSO )

I wrote a bit on EVI back in February ... 


... then it was a tiny $16M market cap / $14.6M EV* co that distributes commercial laundry and dry cleaning equipment. Now it's at $19M mkt cap / $17M EV* doing the same thing. If you saw Breaking Bad you know what a commercial laundromat looks like, minus the meth lab in the basement. (*In calculating EV, I deduct customer deposits from cash b/c that's really a form of working capital.)

The primary business is distributing commercial laundry equipment through its wholly owned subsidiary Steiner-Atlantic ... 


... Michael Steiner was the CEO succeeding his father Bill, who founded the business in 1959. Here's Bill's obit >> http://goo.gl/g3mfs8 << 

It is a very simple and understandable business run well. There are a few tidbits some investors complained about on the investor blogs, such as related party transactions, as the company leases space from the Steiners, and a prior attempted takeunder, but I don't feel those are material today. I've learned over the years there are all kinds of gradations of issues and nothing is simply black & white. (I learned my lesson after I was convinced not to buy MA at the IPO b/c of a threatened European lawsuit. Ugh). 

And like the business itself, my reasons for buying it were simple. It had been run by the Steiner family for +50 yrs and I was reasonably certain that their MO up to that point would continue. The balance sheet was solid. The business, while cyclical, generated cash, and when it did, they returned it to shareholders via a dividend. There was no debt. Growing topline and margins and with that growing returns that had expanded post recession from single digits to 13% ROA and 32% ROA in FY14. In the +5 yrs I'd modeled, there was no equity dilution. The valuation was below the median of its last 10 quarters. Plus, with EV adjusted for the growing EBITDA margin, the stock was (and still is) cheaper per unit of margin than in recent quarters. 

In short, even while other investors seemed to have lost interest, I felt I'd found a small lockbox of compounding cash and I was happy to own part of it, indefinitely.

And then earlier this month, something changed. 

3/9/15: "EnviroStar, Inc. (the “Company”) (NYSE MKT:EVI) today reported that Symmetric Capital LLC, a Florida limited liability company, controlled by Henry Nahmad has acquired a majority of Michael Steiner’s, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Company and Robert Steiner’s, his brother a recognized artist residing in San Francisco, shares of common stock in EnviroStar Inc. After the transaction, Symmetric Capital will own approximately 40.4% of the outstanding shares of the Company, Michael Steiner will retain approximately 8.5% of the outstanding shares, and Robert Steiner will retain approximately 1.4% of the outstanding shares. Additionally, Mr. Nahmad and Michael Steiner and Robert Steiner entered into a stockholders agreement.

Mr. Nahmad has become a Director and Chairman of the Board, and Chief Executive Officer and President of the Company. Mr. Steiner has become Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Company, will remain on the Board of Directors, and will remain the President and Chief Executive Officer of Steiner Atlantic Corp., and all of the Company’s subsidiaries. In addition, the Board of Directors will be increased to seven members, with one member being appointed by Mr. Nahmad."

I caught the PR minutes before my off-month visit to Costco with a friend, so I was shopping stressed and searching for whatever I could find on this new CEO + Chairman + Majority Shareholder between pallets of tomato sauce. This did not feel like a welcome surprise. A big part of thesis was gone. I had to find out, why did the Steiners sell and who is this new guy?!? 

In the three weeks since, having done a bit of digging (management due diligence is a key part of my investment process for small cap stocks) my fears have been quelled and my interest has grown. And while there remain a lot of unknowns and uncertainties, I believe at 5x EBITDA, this could now be an even more exceptional opportunity for long term compounding. 

First, why the sale? I believe it is simply a matter of estate mgmt following the death of the family matriarch in 2014 >> http://goo.gl/BMigsp << I was once many years ago an obituary writer so I do revere these things and it stings especially when a name is mispelled - as it appears it is - on the Miami Herald website. And to think I labored as an obit writer under the direction of a former Miami Herald editor, the great Ron King. Whatever was available on this desk that had enough heft to dislodge an eye would be thrown at me were I to make that same mistake. 

As for the the new guy running the business, I draw your attention to the history of Watsco - $WSO - a $4B market cap HVAC/R equipment distributor ... 


... that was founded by the Wagner family and acquired in 1972 by Albert and Aaron Nahmad (Henry's father & uncle). One of the Wagner's subsequently sat on the board of EVI and connected the younger Nahmad to the younger Steiner. 

You get a picture, however incomplete, where business pedigree, family mentorship, available capital and a rollup playbook meets a well run under-levered business in a fragmented industry. It does not take a lot of imagination to see where this can go. 

But investing is not based solely on imagination, though let's be honest, a good part of it is. I filled in a few holes speaking with former colleagues of the new CEO. The ubiquity of responses was comforting: "Great guy. Great kid. Smart. Great negotiator. Good family. Did deals. Hard worker. He wants to be an owner. Very ambitious. Very smart. You'll do well with him. Good work habits. Enjoyed working with him. Knows business very well. etc." 

My understanding is that at the last job, there was an expectation that he would grow then acquire the business but at the end there was a difference on price. I would imagine this disappointment stung, but now it is our gain, for we shareholders of this small public co, b/c it seems like we just got a young, smart, ambitious CEO running our company. 

And clearly he's smart, b/c he found the same investment we all like. 

I do own the stock. I expect I will buy more. My near term concerns are primarily about the impact of the exchange rate and also, I would like to see something from the new CEO about his growth goals and expectations but that might have to wait until the next shareholder meeting in Nov 2015.  


  1. thoughts or recent strength?

    1. i think with fewer than 8m shares out and a positive change in mgmt signalling consolidation in a highly disaggregated industry owners are adding to their positions. i'm a long term investor.