Ditch Witch Acquires HammerHead

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | May 2010 Vol. 65 No. 5

In a transaction that surprised most of the underground construction industry, the Earth Tool Co. and its HammerHead product line was acquired by The Charles Machine Works Inc., manufacturer of Ditch Witch equipment.

Earth Tool and the HammerHead brand have been closely tied to Vermeer Corp. for years with HammerHead tools sold and serviced through the Vermeer dealer organization. Vermeer has actively advertised and promoted HammerHead products. Typically, HammerHead’s presence at trade shows has been incorporated into Vermeer’s exhibits. Vermeer and HammerHead exhibited together at the 2010 UCT show in January in Tampa.

Reports of the acquisition surfaced the week of April 12, with Ditch Witch and Vermeer communicating the news to their dealers on April 13 and 14. Ditch Witch confirmed the acquisition late Friday, April 16, with a brief, e-mail press release.

The press statement said that ‘The Charles Machine Works Inc. . . . has acquired 100 percent ownership of HammerHead Trenchless Equipment, manufactured by Earth Tool Company LLC (ETC) of Oconomowoc, WI. This acquisition makes ETC a wholly owned subsidiary of CMW.

"’Our decision to acquire HammerHead/ETC was based on our long-term, strategic commitment to grow our core business,’ says Tiffany Sewell-Howard, CEO of CMW.”We plan to fully leverage HammerHead's products and expertise to strengthen our position in the water and sewer rehabilitation markets globally.

“HammerHead/ETC and the Ditch Witch organization both expressed excitement and confidence that the acquisition will ensure long-term sustainability and market leadership.

“Both companies have spent years developing customer confidence in our brands," says Brian Metcalf, CEO of ETC. ‘Joining together reaffirms a commitment customers can depend on,” the press statement concluded.

The announcement leaves many unanswered questions regarding the structure and market impacts:

  • What immediate effect will the acquisition have on the sale of HammerHead products?
  • For the present, will Vermeer dealers continue to sell and service HammerHead products?
  • How will Ditch Witch dealers be involved?
  • Longer term, will Vermeer distribution be phased out?
  • Will current Earth Tool staff remain?
  • Will HammerHead offices and manufacturing stay in Wisconsin?

However, at press time, Ditch Witch and ETC were not prepared to answer any specific questions.

A Ditch Witch spokesperson referred to the April 16 press release, declined to comment further, but added answers to these and other questions would be forthcoming “soon.”