New Owner The Toro Company To Invest $50M in Intimidator Group

New Owner The Toro Company To Invest $50M in Intimidator Group
The Toro Company Chairman and Founder Rick Olson, behind the podium, speaks at an event in Batesville celebrating the company's acquisition of Intimidator Group. Behind him, in a white shirt, is Intimidator Group founder Robert Foster. (Sarah Campbell-Miller)

The Toro Co. of Bloomington, Minnesota, plans to invest roughly $50 million in Intimidator Group of Batesville and double the company's business within the next five years or so, company officials told Arkansas Business after an event they hosted Thursday.

TTC bought lawnmower manufacturer Intimidator Group in a $400 million deal in January, and celebrated that deal with fanfare on Thursday. Gov. Asa Hutchinson attended the event, held at Intimidator’s plant in Batesville.

“As we look to the future of the Intimidator Group as part of The Toro Company, we see opportunity,” TTC Chairman and Founder Rick Olson said during his comments. 

He said the publicly traded TTC is looking to leverage technologies and resources across its businesses to further innovation and provide products that better customer lives, expand product lines, reach new markets, further invest in Intimidator’s Batesville facility and help Intimidator’s employees grow.

Olson told Arkansas Business after the event that the deal took just six months.

He also said TTC’s planned technology investments are mainly in three areas: alternative (i.e. electric) power for its products; smart, connected products; and robotic or autonomous products. TTC just introduced the first fully autonomous fairway mower for golf courses, Olson said.

TTC plans to implement a policy that 35% of sales must come from products that were introduced within the past two years at Intimidator, he said. TTC will provide capital and access to experts from other parts of the company to help its new acquisition grow, Olson said.

A few TTC leaders will move to Batesville, including John Swanson, who will serve as general manager of Intimidator. He and Daryn Walters, TTC’s vice president of Exmark and Intimidator Group businesses, were at Thursday's event.

Intimidator Founder Robert Foster spoke at the gathering, as well. Foster, who started the company with his wife Becky, said Intimidator turned down several interested buyers before it was approached by The Toro Co. 

He and Olson said the companies were a good fit for each other because they value innovation, serving customers, building good teams and treating employees right, supporting communities, and being good stewards of the environment. 

“Y'all know us enough to know that there's no way possible that we could ever let our employees, let our dealers, let our city or let our state [have] someone come in that we wasn't 100% confident they can do better than we could do,” Foster told the crowd during his comments.

Foster will stay on at the company, but not run it. His role will be more focused on research and development and dealer relations, Foster said.

He added that he wants his Intimidator plant to be the most efficient plant in TTC’s organization and that its growth is what captured the attention of the “world-class company.”

According to Foster, Intimidator does “the same amount of business in eight days as we did our first 14 months when we started. So the growth has been unreal.” 

The company, started with 38 employees, now employs 550. As for the plant’s physical footprint, dirt work has been done on one side of its building for future expansion, but no official plans have been made, yet. 

“We've watched Intimidator, as it grew from a startup nine years ago to the outstanding company that it is today,” TTC’s Olson said. “The story is one of commitment, creativity and also determination and perseverance. We know that's a big part of the story. … If anybody has lost their faith in the American story, or the American dream, they need to talk to Robert and Becky, because it's alive. And this is an incredible case. It's a great, great story.”

TTC serves customers in 125 countries, employs 11,000 people and works with thousands of distributors and dealers around the world through its family of brands, Olson said.

He also said one of the first phone calls he received when the purchase was announced came from the governor, who welcomed TTC to Arkansas and asked how the state could help the company.

“We know that The Toro Company is going to grow. You're a global company; you have incredible facilities across the United States. You've got incredible brands, and you're going to have opportunities to expand because of your leadership team and a growing economy in the United States,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said during his comments at the event. “And so, when you need to expand, we ask you to first look at this facility here in Batesville. We will make the case. We will partner with you. We will make it happen because your success is our success. And we want to grow with you in Arkansas.”

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