Medline buys Guardian

Sunday, November 9, 2008

MUNDELEIN, Ill. - Medline Industries hopes to wake a sleeping giant with its recent acquisition of Guardian, a line of walking aids and bath safety products, from Sunrise Medical.

Clinicians view Guardian, a brand that's been around for more than 50 years, as a leader in products like crutches. But with Sunrise Medical zeroing in on wheelchair and seating, it may have lost some of its muscle, industry sources say.

"With Guardian's reputation, this is a valuable and complementary addition to our existing product line," said Dave Jacobs, president of Medline's durable medical equipment division. "The Guardian name will definitely be part of our strategy moving forward."

The Guardian Easy Care will remain part of Sunrise Medical's portfolio of wheelchairs.

With Guardian, Medline expects to reach new customers, mainly clinicians, Jacobs said.

"They have a very good foothold in the clinical rehab community, and that's a market that we haven't been able to serve as well as we'd like to," he said. "Now we're able to not only provide them with the products they already use but also other products and services. That way, we build that business across our whole portfolio."

Without Guardian, Sunrise Medical will dedicate all resources to becoming the "industry leader" in wheelchairs and seating systems, said Michael Proffitt, vice president of marketing and product management.

"We want to make sure we're optimizing ourselves for that marketplace," he said.

Sunrise Medical may also be making itself more attractive to potential buyers, industry sources say. In 2007, Sunrise Medical split off and renamed its respiratory business DeVilbiss Healthcare, sparking talk that the manufacturer was looking to sell, and it believed its pieces were more valuable than its whole.