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Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)
PlayCore had only seven employees in Chattanooga when Bob Farnsworth joined the company nearly two decades ago.
As Farnsworth prepares to retire as PlayCore's CEO at the end of the year, the maker of playground and recreational equipment is preparing to move into its own headquarters building with about 125 employees in Chattanooga and 1,800 workers across the country.
"We doubled in size during the recession," said Farnsworth, who'll hand over PlayCore's reins to current president Roger Posacki. "During that period of time, we acquired eight companies."
Over his 19-year tenure, Farnsworth helped build PlayCore into a leader in the play and recreation equipment market.
"I'm extremely proud to have worked with one of the best teams in the industry to help drive PlayCore's growth," Farnsworth said. "The passion, drive, and dedication of our people has provided the foundation on which we've built the company we are today."
From a portfolio that consisted of playground companies at the beginning of Farnsworth's tenure, PlayCore now has 20 brands encompassing recreation, including play, aquatics, site furnishings, indoor and outdoor fitness, and spectator seating.
PlayCore also employs about 350 people at a production plant in Fort Payne, Ala.
New York City-based Sentinel Capital Partners, a private equity firm focusing on middle market investments, owns PlayCore, which has more than $400 million in annual revenues.
Posacki said the company is "profoundly grateful for the visionary leadership Bob has provided to our business and to our industry."
"The foundation he has helped to lay will ensure that PlayCore remains focused on aligning our resources to profitably grow our company, and we are excited about the many opportunities to continue our growth and service in the future," he said.
Farnsworth said PlayCore is a holding company for entrepreneurial businesses in the park and recreation market. As PlayCore has acquired them, they stay as standalone enterprises, though parts such as finance are integrated, he said.
"That's the secret of the company," Farns-worth said, maintaining the entrepreneurial spirit of a business but adding value to distribution and other channels and leveraging the supply chain side.
Also from Chattanooga come research and outreach seminars for customers, he said.
Farnsworth, who will continue to serve on PlayCore's board, said there are several more acquisitions which the company hopes to finish up in early 2017.
"I'm confident we'll continue on its [growth] path," he said, citing Posacki's experience and management team.
On Wednesday, PlayCore announced that Spencer Cheak, Mark Burgess and Anita Sayed each will be promoted to group president, reporting to Posacki and responsible for the operations of the platform company groups within PlayCore.
Farnsworth said 2016 has been "a record year."
"We've had strong growth in the core business," he said. "We had a really solid year this year. I suspect it will stay strong in 2017."
PlayCore plans to move into the former FSG Bank headquarters at 531 Broad St. next spring. Currently, it's leasing space in an office building at Chestnut and Fourth streets.
Harbert Realty Services acquired the 34,000-square-foot FSG Bank building earlier this year.
Contact Mike Pare at mpare@times freepress.com or 423-757-6318.
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