Growing New Hampshire Company Buys Close Affiliate

Posted on August 2, 2013

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Grace Limousine closed a deal July 31 to buy Ultimate Coach, a boutique operation and longtime affiliate.

Ultimate Coach, which in recent years transitioned from 10 vehicles to two vehicles plus farm-out arrangements, will be fully absorbed into Grace Limousine, which runs 48 chauffeured vehicles in southern New Hampshire and eastern Massachusetts that includes the lucrative Boston metro market. Grace plans to pick up the two vehicles from Ultimate, bringing its fleet count to 50.

The companies formally joined on Thursday, Aug. 1, which also marks the advent of Grace Platinum, a higher tier of client chauffeured service that builds on Ultimate’s exclusive, boutique client base, said Michael Campbell, owner and CEO of Grace Limousine and a board director of the National Limousine Association.

Campbell told LCT that the deal came about after he was contacted by Ultimate owner Marc Drouin, who plans to retire. Ultimate, started by Drouin in 1986, has been a loyal and intertwined affiliate of Grace Limousine — a close working relationship started by Drouin and Campbell’s late father, Ian, who founded Grace in 1990. Grace Limousine and Ultimate Coach are based in Manchester, and Grace has an additional facility in Portsmouth.

Because the companies have known each other so well, Campbell and Drouin were able to work out a straightforward cash-out sales transaction sealed with a lunch and a handshake. “We have a long 100% positive history with them. Ultimate Coach has been around for 27 years, the owner and my father were good friends, and we’ve always done their overflow work,” Campbell said. “The owner looked to retire so went out to lunch, we shook hands and put the deal together.”

The deal is the second one for Campbell in exactly one year. On Aug. 1, 2012, Campbell closed a transaction to purchase McLaughlin Transportation of Nashua, N.H., a 20-year company with about $500,000 in annual revenues. Grace Limousine gained six employees, a client list, website and phones in that deal, but not any vehicles.

With the two purchases, Campbell estimates Grace Limousine will average annual revenues of $5 million. It now has 72 employees, including 50 chauffeurs. No employees from Ultimate Coach transferred to Grace Limousine.

Aug. 1 also marked the launch of Grace Platinum, a premium-level service for exclusive high-end chauffeured clients. The boutique tier consists of Grace’s newest vehicles — the Lincoln MKT Town Car and Mercedes-Benz E-350 — driven by its most experienced senior chauffeurs, Campbell said. Amenities for Grace Platinum clients include: Personal beverage options, rest-easy travel kits similar to those of airline first-class service, mobile charging stations, concierge service, tablets with entertainment package, preferred newspaper selections, and partner network discounts.

"We're really on a roll right now,” said Campbell, adding that other regional acquisitions are likely on the horizon. His goal is to build his company into a major luxury transportation provider in eastern New England.

Information: www.gracelimo.com; (603) 666-0203

— Martin Romjue, LCT editor

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