Time Versalift acquires Ruthmann

US based vehicle mounted aerial lift manufacturer Time Manufacturing Company/Versalift is to acquire German truck mounted and spider lift manufacturer Ruthmann.

The deal includes the entire Ruthmann business which includes its Bluelift facility in Italy and its US aerial lift distribution company Reachmaster - which recently rebranded as Ruthmann Reachmaster after it was acquired by the German company in March.

So far no details of the transaction have been released, but the deal is expected to close by the end of the first quarter. Ruthmann has annual revenues in the region of €150 million. As far as we understand the management teams at both companies will remain in place.

Time is based in Waco, Texas, and produces truck mounted aerial lifts primarily for the electric utility, telecommunications, infrastructure, and forestry sectors. It operates under a number of brands as well as Versalift, including the Aspen Aerials line of underbridge inspection units, and the BrandFX line of fiberglass truck bodies. Time has also distributed Ruthmann products in the US since 2013.

Time’s European operation, Versalift International, is based in Farsø (Farsoe) Denmark, with production facilities in the UK and France as well as Denmark. It already distributes Ruthmann products in a number of countries, including the Nordic region, while Ruthmann distributes Versalift in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and the two share a number of dealerships elsewhere.

Time was acquired by the current owner, Texas based private equity firm the Sterling Group, from long time owners O’Flaherty Holdings in February 2017 - see: Change of owner at Time.

The Time name first appeared in 1968 shortly after Charlie Turner bought into the business, which had been set up in 1965 by Bill Blewett and Russell Howard, with Turner's support. The Time name came with the move to Waco, Texas. Irish car dealers O’Flaherty Holdings purchased the company in 1977, selling out to Sterling 40 years later. In 2018 Time went on a buying spree acquiring Duluth, Minnesota based underbridge inspection platform manufacturer Aspen Aerials, and several North American dealers, including Knoxville, Tennessee, based O.G. Hughes & Sons and Shelby, North Carolina based forestry equipment distributor Trueco as well as Brand FX. The company is now estimated to have revenues in the region of $270 million.

Ruthmann was founded in 1901 by Anton Ruthmann as a bicycle and sewing machine shop in the 1940s. The second generation took over and began making carts and trolleys, with its well known Cargoloader hydraulic truck bed coming in 1949. The company built its first Steiger truck mounted platform in 1954, adding a telescopic boom in 1956, while many of the early units that followed mounted on Volkswagen Combi van chassis.
A Ruthmann truck mount from the 1950s

In 2001 the company unveiled the world’s first 100 metre platform with its articulated trailer mounted TTS 1000 at bauma. The cost of designing and building such large machines, at the same time as an economic slowdown and strong competition on smaller models from Italian manufacturers, caused serious financial difficulties and in 2003 the business was acquired by Heinrich Winkelmann and Heinz-Jürgen Buss who also became the new managing directors of the company.
The Ruthmann plant is located in Gescher-Hochmoor due north of Duisburg

In 2007, some 53 years after the company built its first truck mounted lift for the city of Duisburg, Ruthmann built its 10,000th platform - a TB 220 - which it auctioned off on ebay, with the proceeds going to a children’s charity.

In 2010, Winkelmann and Buss handed over the management of Ruthmann to current managing director Rolf Kulawik. The following year Ruthmann acquired Versalift’s German sales operation - Time Deutschland Versalift - kicking off the relationship that has grown slowly but steadily ever since.

Vertikal Comment

This is a surprising move and a fairly well kept secret. The move is likely to create a business with revenues in the region of €375 million ($460 million) and a good deal of upside growth potential. The two companies have been working increasingly closely in recent years and prior to the Sterling acquisition in 2017, some wondered if Ruthmann might have made a bid for the Time business.

The fit between the two companies is good and the product line and distribution overlap relatively small. As such there is a strong case to continue to run the two operations as standalone businesses, while working ever more closely in terms of cross selling, supply lines and product support.

The potential in the USA is particularly substantial and with Ruthmann distribution - currently Time for the larger models and Reachmaster for the smaller units - united there is room for a more logical arrangement that might yield better results.

It will be very interesting to see how this transaction develops, but it has great potential to work out very positively for both brands.


Congratulations to both parties, but we expected it to be the other way round!

Jan 7, 2021

This article has so much legacy threaded into it. I will print the story and add it to my copy of the book “GOING UP IN THE WORLD” by Denis Ashworth.

Jan 6, 2021
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