Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Triad: Leader of the pack

By Ogi Overman 

Ever since pilgrim John Goodman brought his mastiff and English springer spaniel aboard the Mayflower, America has had an affinity for dogs. Now, some four centuries later, more than 5.4 million U.S. households own at least one dog, and man’s best friends have mushroomed into a $60 billion industry. While dog food accounts for the bulk of that market, products and services such as veterinary medicine, kennels, training, accessories, therapy dogs and the Animal Planet network are mega industries.

And then there are dog shows, properly called conformation shows because purebred dogs are judged on how they conform to the standards of their breed. Though dog mania has exploded, shows have declined during the last 20 years amid tighter restrictions on breeding and less interest by younger pet owners. “The [American Kennel Club] used to register a million and a half dogs 20 years ago; now, they’re lucky to register 500,000,” says Bobby Christiansen, president of Greensboro-based MB-F.

His company dominates the industry, and he knows better than to push the panic button. MB-F produces 45% of U.S. dog shows, far outpacing its six main rivals. “We’ve gained market share even as the total number of shows has dropped off,” says Christiansen, who has led the business for 35 years.

MB-F produces about 1,000 shows annually, split evenly between comportment — how dogs behave — and specialty shows such as single-breed and field trial events. “We actually turn down business,” he says. “If it’s not the right time and place, we’re careful not to take on too much.”

The company employs about 100 people at a 45,000-square-foot building just off Interstate 85/40 Business. The one-stop shop includes five presses; bindery and collating machines; ribbon makers; sewing machines; data-entry personnel; proofreaders; web designers; and executives. It has smaller branches in California, Florida, Michigan and Oregon and a road crew in Philadelphia.

“We do the whole process in house,” says Christiansen. “And, of course, we’re sending people out to run the actual shows themselves.”

Its popular website,, offers online registration, show results and details on future ones, as well as human-interest stories for dog fanciers.

MB-F takes its name from its three corporate forebearers — Moss, Bow and Foley — that merged in the early ’70s with headquarters in Guilford County. The Foley company had been in business since 1900, with Moss and Bow dating to the 1930s.

While MB-F doesn’t disclose revenue, it processes more than 800,000 dog show entries annually and charges $30 per entry, though a portion is returned to kennel clubs.

Primo Water agreed to buy Glacier Water Services, based in California, for about $263 million, creating a company with annual sales of about $273 million and a water-dispenser refill and exchange network of 46,000 locations. Yadkin County native Billy Prim founded the Winston-Salem-based company in 2004 after selling his Blue Rhino business for $340 million. Since Primo’s 2010 IPO at about $12, shares have ranged from 75 cents to $15. At presstime, Primo traded for about $13. Primo earned $1.9 million last year after combined losses of $24 million in the previous two years.

WINSTON-SALEM — BB&T passed Wells Fargo as the second-largest bank in North Carolina based on deposits as of June 30. BB&T has a 15.6% share after adding about $3.8 billion in the last year. Wells Fargo has 15.2%, reporting a $5.4 billion decline. Bank of America has the largest share, 45.6%, compared with 47.4% a year earlier. Raleigh-based First Citizens is No. 4 with 4.2%.

WINSTON-SALEM — Former House Speaker John Boehner joined the board of Reynolds American as the tobacco industry faces pressure in Congress to ban menthol cigarettes. Directors of the second-largest U.S. cigarette company, which is based here, each received about $400,000 in compensation last year.

GREENSBORO — Eric Wiseman, 61, is stepping down as CEO of VF Corp. but will remain chairman. Steven Rendle will succeed Wiseman on Jan. 1. Rendle, 57, has worked at VF for 16 years. He became president and chief operating officer in June 2015.

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