Hobbico purchases Revell Monogram

CHAMPAIGN – Champaign-based Hobbico has acquired the assets of Revell Monogram, the worldwide market leader in plastic model kits, the company announced Wednesday.

Revell, which sells model cars, trucks, ships and planes, will continue to operate from its Northbrook headquarters as a subsidiary of Hobbico. But Hobbico President Wayne Hemming said it's likely some of its operations will eventually move to Champaign.

The transaction was closed Monday, and Hobbico officials met Tuesday with Revell employees in Northbrook. The purchase was announced Wednesday to employees in Champaign-Urbana.

"Plastic kits are an important foundation to the hobby business," Hemming said. "We are pleased to welcome Revell to the Hobbico family and look forward to the exciting growth opportunities that this presents."

Hemming said the opportunity arose when Revell Monogram's owners, who acquired the company in 2002 as "financial buyers," approached Hobbico about buying Revell.

Hobbico welcomed the idea for several reasons, Hemming said.

First, Revell Monogram is an "iconic brand." Of 35 proprietary brands Hobbico owns or represents, "Revell is perhaps the most widely known," he said.

Second, Revell has a reputation as a "hobby starter." If a child starts out with a Revell model, there's a good chance he or she will step up to more sophisticated models later in life, he said. That could end up creating more customers for Hobbico's other products.

Third, Revell has a substantial presence with big-box retailers, such as Wal-Mart. That would mesh well with United Model, the Hobbico subsidiary that serves mass-market retailers.

Fourth, the combined resources of Revell and Hobbico could lead to new product possibilities. Already, Revell has launched an initiative involving radio-controlled cars with NASCAR-style bodies, and later this year, it will distribute a robotics design system known as VEX.

Although Revell's headquarters will remain in Northbrook, "at some time in the future, we would consider moving the warehousing and distribution to Champaign," Hemming said.

Revell's lease of a 190,000-square-foot facility in Northbrook ends March 31, 2008, he said.

"We will probably downsize and have just the headquarters office up there and move distribution to Champaign," he said.

Hemming said Revell employs 52 people in Northbrook and has a two-person sales office in Bentonville, Ark., that serves Wal-Mart. All the Northbrook work-ers, with the exception of two contract employees, have been retained by Hobbico, he said.

The Northbrook operations include product development, engineering, sales, product support, marketing, purchasing, accounting, warehousing and distribution. Production moved to China in 2004, Hemming said.

Revell originated in 1945, starting out with plastic toys before adding plastic model kits in 1951. Monogram started the same year and made wooden ship, plane and car models before introducing a plastic racing car kit in 1954. Revell and Monogram were combined in 1986.

Hobbico makes, distributes and sells model hobby products, including radio-controlled models, plastic model kits and trains. It employs 700 in Champaign-Urbana and 85 at a distribution center in Reno, Nev.

The company was formed in January 1986 when Clint Atkins combined two firms, Tower Hobbies and Great Planes Model Distributors, that he had acquired in 1984.

In 2001, Hobbico acquired United Model, a distributor based in Wheeling. United Model, now located in Champaign, sells to mass-market retailers such as Target, Wal-Mart, Toys "R" Us and Michaels.

In November 2005, Hobbico became employee-owned through an employee stock-ownership plan. Atkins remains the chairman of Hobbico and also operates The Atkins Group, a real estate development company in Champaign-Urbana.

Hobbico's facilities in Champaign include its headquarters in Champaign's Interstate Research Park and a manufacturing facility in Urbana. Altogether, the Champaign-Urbana facilities total 435,000 square feet. The company also has a 200,000-square-foot distribution center in Reno.

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