March 24, 2014
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Columbus company acquired by Brookfield's Blackthorne Partners
By Kathleen Gallagher

Hughes Co., a Columbus maker of stainless steel food-processing equipment, has been acquired for an undisclosed price by Blackthorne Partners Ltd. based in Brookfield.

Ross Lund, previously general manager at Trostel Ltd. in Lake Geneva, was also part of the acquisition team and has become president and chief executive officer of the company.

The acquirers have "aggressive growth goals" for Hughes and plan to hire additional employees as those plans unfold, Lund said. Hughes has 35 employees now, he said.

"The story here is top-line growth. Hughes has great products, and it's been around for 50 years. We just need more people to know about it," said John Syburg, Blackthorne's founder and president. Lund is a "very good, top line-oriented" executive, he added.

Hughes, founded in 1961, sells machinery that is used for processing and preparation of vegetables, pasta, rice, fruit and root crops. The company has customers around the world, with recent orders from Cambodia, Israel and Ukraine, Lund said.

Lund said his goal is to bring new technologies and ways to go to market to the company's offerings, which range from corn huskers and cob saws to peelers, scrubbers, blanchers and snippers.

"Hughes is known for being a strong, stable company. Now we're going to give it an innovative edge," Lund said. As for sales, the company is aiming to expand its territories, he said.

Blackthorne and Lund bought the company from Jeff Powell, who bought Hughes in 2008 and has been its president. Powell has retained an interest in the company and will be a consultant to it.

Blackthorne, which formed in 2007, typically acquires companies with revenue of $4 million to $15 million. Hughes is the fifth company it has acquired. All of them are in Wisconsin.
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