United Aqua Group has expanded its business model. The Las Vegas buying group has started UAG Holdings, a company to grow the group’s asset portfolio through investments and, perhaps, acquisitions.
In April, investment banker George Zorbas took the helm as UAG Holdings president. “I’m very excited to be joining a successful organization with the rich history and reputation of UAG,” he said. “I look forward to bringing new perspectives and investment strategies to the group, with the ultimate goal of delivering a superior value in returns for our members.”
Zorbas has been brought on to manage and grow UAG’s asset portfolio through investment opportunities inside and outside the industry.
“While the core business and focus will remain unchanged, there’s opportunity to expand and possibly look for investments a little bit further out from the historically tight focus of the organization,” Zorbas said.
The 53-year-old organization, formerly known as Aquatech, is essentially a co-op in which its nearly 300 members hold ownership stake. Through UAG Holdings, the group seeks to boost share value past its historic growth, which it characterized as “modest but steady.”
“Anything that corporate could do to help accelerate growth and improve the returns on equity, that benefits all of the members,” Zorbas said.
UAG has chosen this course to help insulate it against outside forces. “We’re trying to balance ourselves a little better if we go through another downturn in the economy, [or] we have bad weather or even issues with water in California,” said Lee Rincon, chief operating officer of UAG.
Zorbas formerly served as vice president of investment banking for Roth Capital Partners. He has 20 years’ experience advising and achieving strategic financial growth with middle market companies. Most recently, he worked as the North American chief financial officer for a Las Vegas-based gaming company.
“This new position is very interesting to me because it blends both aspects of corporate
finance, but also a lot of opportunity to leverage my banking background from the standpoint of acquisitions and investments,” Zorbas said.
As Zorbas explores and develops investment strategies, Rincon oversees day-to-day operations and organic growth through increased membership and the sale of UAG services to its members.
UAG has undergone several changes in the past year. In fall 2014, CEO Jeff Fausett retired after 15 years. Rincon was then promoted to COO from chief financial officer. Executive Vice President Thomas Brown and Director of Education and Events Sharon Moser also left in 2014.
This year, two other staffers departed. Long-time Director of Sales and Business Development Nancy Lesniewski retired on April 1. “She was dedicated and just a real value-added, knowledgeable individual,” Rincon said. “She helped us a lot. … She was one of the few people who came from the pool industry, and that’s hard to find.”
Lesniewski, a key person in recruiting members, will be replaced by multiple personnel likely stationed regionally and also charged with selling UAG services to members.
Tracy Miguel, the organization’s vice president of sales and marketing for approximately two years, departed in late February. To fill that role, UAG Director of Creative Natalia Cortes-Chaffin will incorporate the marketing title and duties.