April 3, 2024
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Wyatt Tech will keep strong Goleta presence

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From left to right: Geofrey Wyatt, CEO of Wyatt; Dr. Udit Batra, CEO of Waters; Dr. Philip Wyatt, founder of Wyatt; Clifford Wyatt, president of Wyatt. (Courtesy photo)

Legacy is very important to the Wyatt family.

That is why the executive team at Wyatt Technology ensured that although it is being sold to Waters Corporation with a $1.36 billion price tag, announced on Feb. 15, its impact on the Santa Barbara community will not waver.

“Protecting our employees and their jobs in the Santa Barbara area was of paramount importance. We needed to find a company that would agree to some of our wishes and those included: all of our employees would keep their jobs and keep their salary levels; we would continue to manufacture our instruments here in Santa Barbara; we would continue to proceed with our R&D endeavors and our intellectual property endeavors,” Geofrey Wyatt, the company’s CEO, told the Business Times.

“All of these things were kind of non-negotiable points that we felt we needed to perpetuate the legacy of the Wyatt name.”

Wyatt Technology specializes in innovative light scattering and field-flow fractionation instruments, software, accessories, and services.

Its scientists were the first to commercialize on-line multi-angle laser light scattering instruments more than 40 years ago and the company has been defining and redefining state-of-the-art macromolecular characterization instrumentation, software, and services ever since.

It played a big role during the COVID-19 pandemic as well, as mRNA vaccines would not have been able to be given to people without the company’s instrumentation.

Wyatt’s success is also seen through its fiscal numbers, as revenue reached $110 million in 2022 while the company employs about 220 people in its Santa Barbara manufacturing plant.

All this to say, Wyatt is looking to protect quite an impressive legacy — one that they are proud took place here on the Central Coast.

“Santa Barbara is so filled with stories of companies being taken over by others and just gutted and moved elsewhere. That’s not what Waters intends to do here at all,” Cliff Wyatt, the company’s president, told the Business Times.

Geofrey added that Waters had indicated they may even look to relocate some of its team headquarters, located in Massachusetts, to Santa Barbara.

“After a lot of their management team saw Santa Barbara in the past few months, I think they became convinced that Santa Barbara was a bit more desirable… but there are charms to both cities,” Cliff said.

“We want this to be a stupendous success story and grow the business far larger than we could ever have dreamed.”

Waters might be the perfect team to do that. Waters is one of the leading providers of lab equipment, supplies and software for scientists across the world.

It has a large global presence, especially in Europe and Asia, which could help Wyatt reach new heights.

“I think we have maybe 12 employees in our China office and Waters has 600 or 700. So, as you can well imagine, we may see shifts in manufacturing if the Waters team helps our China team at the very least,” Cliff said.

Waters is also publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

Shares are down about 7% since the acquisition was announced, though that could be do to the stock market as a whole. Shares closed at $320.20 on Feb. 21.

But Waters’s acquisition of Wyatt won’t just make the Santa Barbara company stronger, it will really bring out the best for both parties.

According to the company, it will expand Waters’ portfolio and increase exposure to large molecule applications. With more than 80% of Wyatt’s revenue derived from large molecules, this will increase Waters’ exposure to exciting new applications within the bioanalytical characterization market.

The two parties are also interested in tapping into a significant market opportunity for bioanalytical characterization for new modalities including cell and gene therapies with a $1.8 billion total addressable market and 10-12% projected annual growth.

“For us, we’ve spent the last two and a half years really focused on regaining our commercial momentum and organically revitalizing our own innovation,” Kristin Garvey, vice president of corporate communications at Waters, told the Business Times.

“We’ve had an important growth strategy to move into markets like cell and gene therapy and bio-analytical characterization. That is the sweet spot Wyatt Technology has and we believe is really important to Waters’ future and our growth in those in those particular markets.”

Garvey added that the two companies have long admired each other, so when the opportunity came about, it was almost a no-brainer. She also said that there is a “lot of opportunity for growth in the Santa Barbara area.

“I think there is definitely an opportunity to grow that area, especially in the manufacturing side of things and we’re east coast so this gives us some additional exposure on the west coast so there is a lot of benefits,” Garvey said.

Wyatt Technology was founded by Phil Wyatt, a renowned physicist, in 1982. That year, the company got some small business grants to start what would become a multi-million-dollar giant.

Phil, 91, is also still involved in the company, with Geofrey joking that he may work longer at Wyatt than them.

But he did step down from his top executive position at Wyatt Technology in 2018 — some 36 years after he first founded the company — and it was his sons who were ready to take the family legacy to the next level.

But as succession talks began again around 2022, there was no one quite ready to take over the company in the foreseeable future. Geofrey’s kids are off trying to find their own way in this world while Cliff’s kids and their sister’s kids are a bit too young to lead a company just yet.

That’s when the trio, Phil, Geof and Cliff, had an important conversation — that no matter what, its legacy of delivering fair practices to its employees, its commitment to its customers and its enthusiasm to keep unlocking new ways to advance the world would not end.

“We really wanted to figure out a way to perpetuate the legacy of the company,” Geofrey said.

“As the saying goes, you come into the world with a name and you leave with a reputation and we’d like to leave with a great reputation… and Waters is the ideal steward to continue what we’ve created and what we’ve continued to hone and improve over the years. Waters is going to continue that well into the future for generations.”

The feeling is mutual.

“At the end of the day, we have a shared mission to really bring more of these lifesaving therapies, therapeutics and medicines to patients faster and at a lower cost,” Garvey said.

“As we work together to advance the science and technology behind that, we’re really confident that this combination will get us there.”

The Wyatt family. (Courtesy photo)