Cree is acquiring startup LED Lighting Fixtures in Morrisville in a cash and stock deal worth $77 million.
The acquisition could be worth another $26.4 million for LLF’s shareholders over three years.
The deal, which was announced early Friday, reunites several of LLF’s founders with Cree (Nasdaq: CREE), which they also helped launch 20 years ago.
Launched in 2005, LLF has developed proprietary technology for light fixtures that include LEDs. Cree sells LEDs to LLF.
Cree is focusing many of its resources on meeting growing global demand for LEDs as lighting alternatives to conventional means such as fluorescent bulbs. LEDs use less energy, last longer and produce less heat than other forms of lighting.
LLF also has developed color-mixing technology for LEDs, a patented process for improved efficiency and color quality of LEDs.
“The combination of Cree’s lighting-class LEDs and LLF’s lighting-systems technologies should set the stage for Cree to obsolete the light bulb, a 19th-century invention that wastes energy and pollutes our environment," said Chuck Swoboda, chief executive officer of Cree, in a statement.
“We believe the market is at a tipping point, with billions of sockets in existing fixtures now addressable with energy-efficient LED lighting,” he added. “Accelerating this market transformation benefits Cree, our LED customers and lighting consumers.”
LLF will operate as a business unit of Cree under the name Cree LED Lighting Solutions.
The acquisition means that Neal Hunter, one of LLF’s founders as well as its chairman and CEO, will return to the Cree payroll. One of Cree’s initial launch team, Hunter also served as chairman and CEO of Cree for several years before stepping down to pursue other ventures, including real estate.
Hunter, chief technology officer Gerry Negley, managing director Tony van de Ven, and Tommy Coleman launched LLF.
Hunter will serve as president of the LLF business unit. Other LLF managers will “continue in their roles,” Cree said in the announcement.
"Cree is as passionate as we are about moving the lighting market forward and making an impact on energy consumption into the next decade and beyond," Hunter said.
“This acquisition should make Cree a powerful force for innovation around cutting-edge LED lighting solutions that are unmatched in the industry,” he added.
Cree will acquire LLF for $77 million in cash and stock.
If product milestones are met and key employees stay with the firm, Cree said it would pay an “additional consideration” of $26.4 million over the next three years. The “key employees” were not identified.
In November, LLF announced it had shipped more than $1 million of its new light emitting diode fixtures in the first 90 days they were available. Another $1 million in sales were expected in November and December.
LLF recently closed on $16.5 million in new financing. Its customers include the Ohio governor’s mansion, the Harvard Business School, McDonald’s, Roche Laboratories and Sheraton, according to the company.
LLF has put together a team of 65 sales agents and a network of more than 300 distributors. The company offers two versions of its LR6 product, including “warm” and neutral colors.