French company buys local manufacturer of orthopedic braces

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A French company has purchased Townsend Design, a locally owned company that manufactures orthopedic braces.

The buyer was Thuasne North America, a Bainbridge Island, Wash., subsidiary of French company Thuasne, which also has operations in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East.

Purchase price was not disclosed. Thuasne management could not be reached for comment.

None of Townsend’s more than 130 local employees, nor its roughly 60 sales representatives across the country, are expected to lose their jobs as a result of the acquisition, said chief executive officer Rick Riley.

“That’s the most beautiful thing about this,” he said. “This was something that was inevitable for us because the market is just dominated by huge companies. We were wondering how we could get to the scale we needed to be competitive without job losses.”

Thuasne’s offer was attractive because less than 1 percent of its revenue comes from the U.S. market. Because it makes soft braces and compression garments in Europe, and Townsend makes hard braces in the United States, there was no redundancy to eliminate.

“Just the opposite, we see this as an opportunity to create more jobs in Bakersfield,” Riley said.

It’s not likely the new owner would relocate the company because a lot of its manufacturing work is done by hand by people with very specialized expertise, he added.

Townsend wasn’t on the market, but broke down and began serious talks in September after two years of persistent courting, Riley said.

North High School and UCLA graduate Jeff Townsend founded Townsend Design in 1984. He was still heavily involved in day-to-day operations until a few years ago.

The company’s current management team will stay on under the new owner.

Thuasne is a family-owned company founded in 1847.

President and chief executive officer Elizabeth Ducottet is the fifth generation of her family to run the company, and is grooming her adult children to take over one day.

“We visited Thuasne’s corporate offices and toured their main industrial sites in France,” said Mike Huston, Townsend’s senior vice president, in a statement issued Monday. “While we were impressed by their organization, what convinced us this was a good fit was spending time with Mrs. Ducottet and her children.”

The company has a business culture and operating values that mirror Townsend’s in that it seems to genuinely care about its employees and customer relationships, Riley said.

Thuasne owns fabrication, customer service and distribution centers in France, Germany, Romania and the Czech Republic. It had $180 million in sales last year, and will have 1,400 employees including the Townsend staff.

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