News reports on Thursday speculated that Bass Pro Shops, a privately held outdoor retailer, may be considering buying out one of its biggest competitors: Cabela’s. According to Reuters, several sources familiar with the matter have said that Bass Pro is currently working with an investment bank to come up with a potential offer. Neither Bass Pro Shops or Cabela’s have made any official statements on the matter.
“We are aware of recent media speculation and our policy is not to comment on market rumors,” Bass Pro spokesperson Jack Wlezien told the Springfield News-Leader.
Observers noted that the speculation started after an investor, Elliot Management Corp, announced last month that it owns six percent of Cabela’s shares and holds options to buy another five percent. Elliot called for the company to implement changes and explore new options, such as a sale to a private equity firm. Following the publication of the Reuters report, Cabela’s shares jumped 13 percent to as high as $44.81 on Thursday.
As of early 2015, Cabela’s has around 64 stores in the United States and Canada and employs about 19,300 people. The outdoor retailer was originally founded as a mail-order business in 1961 by its namesake Richard Cabela. Cabela started the company with nothing more than $45 worth of fishing flies, and ran the business from his kitchen table with his wife. The ease of purchasing through direct-mail orders quickly caught on and by 1969, Cabela had settled his business within a 50,000 square-foot facility in downtown Sidney, Nebraska. Today, Cabela’s Sidney headquarters has expanded to over 250,000 square feet and the company runs one of the largest mail-order operations in the United States, in addition to its brick and mortar stores.
Bass Pro Shops came from similar origins. While the chain now counts more than 70 retail stores and over 20,000 employees, it first started in the 1970s in the back of a Springfield, Missouri liquor store. Bass Pro Shops founder John Morris built his business by selling fishing supplies out of the back of his father’s shop, but high demand eventually lead to a mail-order catalog and before long, stores started opening up across the United States and Canada. In 2015, Bass Pro opened a store inside the famed Memphis Pyramid, which is currently its largest store. Bass Pro’s headquarters remain in Springfield and the company is the fifth largest employer in the metropolitan area.
If Bass Pro is successful in purchasing Cabela’s, observers say that the company will have firmly increased its grip on the outdoor retail market. It is not currently known how Bass Pro plans to handle the merger of the two companies should the acquisition go through.