Bass Pro Shops swallows up Cabela’s

Monday, October 2, 2017

After a financially rough 2015, outdoors retail giant Cabela’s started looking for options, which culminated in its sale to Bass Pro Shops this week.

The small-town, Nebraska-based Cabela’s got its start in 1961, on Dick Cabala’s kitchen table filling orders for hand-tied trout flies. The business quickly outgrew Cabela’s kitchen and basement, moved to multiple locations in Chappell, and finally landed a few miles away in Sidney, Nebraska. As the years progressed and millions of catalogs later, the mail-order retailer grew into a giant of commerce.

As internet-based retail businesses bloomed in the 1990s, Cabela’s joined the fray with the launch of their own e-commerce web site in 1998. Business continued to boom, and Cabela’s went public (CAB) in 2004.

Even after the “Great Recession” Cabela’s stock price rebounded and the company continued its growth, until the stock price tumbled 21 percent in 2015 from early 2014 levels. Massive layoffs in the summer of 2015 ensued, but that wasn’t enough to satisfy large corporate stakeholders. By November 2015, Cabala’s first announced it was considering a sale after pressure from Elliott Management, a New York hedge fund that had declared a large stake in the company.

In steps Johnny Morris’s Bass Pro Shops, which followed a similar track in the sporting goods industry. Morris got his start selling bass baits from his father’s liquor store in Springfield, Missouri, in 1972. Mail order catalogs filled with hunting and fishing gear evolved into heavy e-commerce and more than 100 retail locations across the South for the successful entrepreneur. Morris’ retail locations are well known as sporting goods “destinations” and draw more than 120 million visitors annually, according to the company’s web site.

The price tag for the Bass Pro/Cabela’s merger is a reported $4 billion, with Cabala’s credit card business selling to Capital One. Cabela’s shareholders will receive $61.50 per share as part of the merger.

No announcement has been forthcoming from Bass Pro Shops about the future of Cabela’s employees in Nebraska after the merger.