A 3:30 a.m. wake-up call in Hannover, Germany for a 6 a.m. flight to Amsterdam and after a two-hour layover, the eight-hour trek from there back to Toronto. I arrived home jetlagged and sleep-deprived and ready to hit the hay at 4 p.m. when the news release arrived in my inbox. Kriska was forming a new holding company along with Mullen Group, which would encompass both Kriska Transportation and Mullen’s Mill Creek. Kriska’s Mark Seymour would be 70% owner of the new venture, while Mullen Group would control 30%. This was a big-time deal! First of all, much credit to Kriska COO Jonathan Wahba, who made himself available to discuss the deal that night, well after closing time. My colleague Carolyn Gruske, editor of Motortruck Fleet Executive, interviewed him at length and by about 11 p.m. had filed a detailed breakdown of the deal, ensuring we were first, as always, to break this type of industry news.
This is an interesting deal for a variety of reasons. First of all, with Mullen money behind it, Kriska becomes a serious player in the M&A landscape practically overnight. It was spelled out clearly for us that this new venture will be looking to grow through acquisition. When TransForce bought Contrans, trucking company owners looking to sell lost an option. With this deal, they’ve gained one. Kriska’s looking for well-managed, successful fleets to add to its stable. It plans to compete with the big guys, like the Challengers, Bisons and Celadons. And yes, even the TransForces.
Normally I say there are no winners when it comes to consolidation, except for the company doing the buying, and sometimes not even them. The same can’t be said about this deal. I believe there are many winners. Kriska’s a huge winner, because it now has the financial resources to grow its capacity and to make some sizeable acquisitions when the right opportunities arise. I suspect Mill Creek comes out a winner. I’ve always thought of them as a bit of an island within the Mullen universe. They’re a freight-hauler based in Ontario while the majority of Mullen’s business revolves around servicing the oilfields in Western Canada.
And here’s something you can say about very few mergers and acquisitions: I believe the industry as a whole comes out of this one a winner. Mark Seymour strikes me as a proud Canadian, who is highly visible and through his various roles with associations and speaking at industry events, makes a meaningful contribution to the industry. We need guys like him to be doubling down on the trucking industry and not cashing out.
Here’s a neat fact about Kriska: All drivers are given the cell phone numbers for Mark Seymour, president; Jonathan Wahba, COO; and Pierre Carrier, CFO, so they can call any one of them if they encounter a problem while out on the road. And here’s something else about Kriska: These guys know their business. I toured their new Prescott headquarters when they moved into it in 2012. I was impressed to see flatscreen monitors along the wall that displayed in near real-time, key performance indicators such as loaded miles, order intake, etc. To have this type of data available is one thing. To share it with every one of your people so they can make better decisions is quite another.
This deal could be a game-changer for Kriska, and that’s an overused marketing buzzword that I detest. But in this case it fits. We could well look back at this deal as the moment Kriska established itself as an even bigger force within the Canadian trucking landscape.
James Menzies is editor of Truck News magazine. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 15 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies. All posts by James Menzies