In a bit of a twist Friday, Cree (Nasdaq: CREE), which makes light-emitting-diode components, said it would buy LED Lighting Fixtures for approximately $77 million in cash and stock, plus an investment of up to $26.4 million more in the next three years.
Morrisville, N.C.-based LED Lighting Fixtures develops retrofit lighting products, most notably an LED downlight -- also called a recessed light -- and Cree said the acquisition will expand the potential market for its components and increase its business. LED Lighting had previously raised $23 million in venture-capital funding (see VCs Take a Shine to Lighting).
ìThe combination of Creeís lighting-class LEDs and LLFís lighting-systems technologies should set the stage for Cree to obsolete the light bulb, a 19th century invention that wastes energy and pollutes our environment," Cree CEO Chuck Swoboda said. ìWe believe the market is at a tipping point, with billions of sockets in existing fixtures now addressable with energy-efficient LED lighting."
What’s interesting is LED Lighting Fixtures almost could be considered a spin-off of Cree.
One of the key connections between the two companies is Neil Hunter, a Cree founder and former CEO whoís now a co-founder and the CEO of LED Lighting Fixtures. Other crossovers include Cree’s former vice president of sales, Mike Rogers, who now reigns as LED Lighting Fixtures’ president; LED Lighting Fixtures Chief Financial Officer Cynthia Merrell, who formerly held the same title at Cree; and Chief Technology Officer Gerry Negley, who held the CTO position at Cree.
"Cree was not as interested in fixture technology; they were more about doing chips and packaged LEDS," Merrell said in November, about the reason Hunter left Cree to start LED Lighting Fixtures.
It didn’t happen all at once, but the Cree execs found themselves jumping ship for LED Lighting Fixtures.
"We thought this was the Holy Grail: LED lighting and fixtures," Merrell said at the time.
Despite the executive exodus, both companies said there were no hard feelings and, in fact, LED Lighting Fixtures uses Cree’s LEDs.
This acquisition seems to prove the lack of bad blood. But surely Cree is wondering whether it would have saved money by simply encouraging Hunter and the others to develop the fixtures at Cree in the first place.
-- Reporter Rachel Barron contributed to this story.