Multimillion-dollar infusion fuels aspirin brand acquisition

Columbia company invests in business that buys St. Joseph name

A Columbia private equity firm has made a “significant” investment in a Baltimore company that then acquired the domestic rights of Johnson & Johnson’s iconic St. Joseph aspirin brand, executives said.

JPB Capital Partners typically invests $3 million to $10 million per transaction, said James R. Bolduc, managing director of the 32-employee Columbia firm. “This is on the significant side of that range,” he said of the investment in Ilex Consumer Products Group that closed last week. He added that he could not disclose the exact amount due to a confidentiality clause.

JPB is making more investments in non-core brands of larger consumer product companies, Bolduc said.

The St. Joseph aspirin brand’s 145-year history — popular for generations as a chewable children’s aspirin — along with growing awareness about the benefits of taking low-dosage aspirin to help the heart, present “tremendous opportunities for growth in aspirin as well as brand extensions into other heart-healthy lifestyle products,” he said.

Ilex Consumer Products Group, which formed in 2008 and is owned by Ilex Capital Group of Baltimore, acquired the aspirin brand from the health care division of McNeil-PPC, part of consumer products giant Johnson & Johnson. Ilex also sells Calgon, which it acquired last year, and other bath and beauty products.
The St. Joseph purchase ties in with the strategy of acquiring businesses that have strong consumer franchises and are important to retailers, Ilex President and COO Robert Bailey said in a statement.

“St. Joseph is one of the top three brands in the low-dose aspirin category and is well positioned for growth in the broader cardio-wellness segment,” Bailey said. “We fully intend to make a significant commitment to communicating the benefits of the brand through an aggressive consumer marketing campaign.”

J.P. Bolduc, chairman and CEO of JPB Enterprises, which is the manager of the private equity firm, is former CEO and president of Columbia chemicals and materials provider W.R. Grace & Co. and founding general partner of equity firm Catterton Partners. While with W.R. Grace and Catterton, he was involved with consumer product brands such as Ambrosia Chocolates, Odwalla and P.F. Chang’s.
Among the companies that JPB Capital Partners has made investments in is The Greene Turtle Franchising Corp. of Edgewater. The owner and franchiser of sports-themed restaurants sold a majority interest to JPB in 2007 to help fund the company’s expansion plans, according to a news release.