Local businessmen investing in Wichita

10/31/2013 7:05 AM

10/31/2013 7:06 AM

Local business stalwarts Jeff Turner and Lynn Nichols have created a Wichita-oriented investment company, along with Turner’s son Brice.

Turner retired as CEO of Spirit AeroSystems in April. And Nichols last year backed away from the day-to-day running of his company, Yingling Aviation.

Their first investment was Retro Systems, a Valley Center-maker of industrial CNC cutting machines. Brice Turner, who had been investigating the deal for Retro Systems for a year, has become chief operations officer and managing partner of the company.

“We intend for there to be more,” Turner said. “The best way to characterize it is: three local boys wanting to find local businesses and help them grow and keep them local.”

They wouldn’t disclose the amount of money they have to invest, but Turner said they funded the Retro deal themselves, and could call on other investors or lenders if needed in the future.

They won’t manage the companies, but they won’t be passive investors, he said.

“Somewhere between having an office at the company and showing up for the dividend check is where we will be,” Turner said. “But every company is different.”

At this point, the only focus of the company is that investments be made in the greater Wichita area, they said. Otherwise, they could invest in a wide variety of companies.

They are interested particularly in companies in which the founder is getting close to retirement and doesn’t have a good succession plan.

In some cases, no one else in the family wants or is able to take on the company, and so the alternative, Nichols said, might be selling to some out-of-town private equity group or shutting the company down.

“That is where the Turner-Nichols Group comes in,” Nichols said. “We sit down and have a conversation and find out just exactly who they are, what they’re all about, and what is it they are looking for and, maybe, there is a strategic fit.”

Turner and Nichols said they are particularly interested in keeping local companies profitable and keep their employees working. Nichols said his personal experience shows that when out-of-town companies buy a local company, they may promise to retain the local presence, but inevitably start cutting costs and centralizing functions. Turner and Nichols said they would help local companies stay local, he said.

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