MDM Podcast: The Master Group Wants to be North America's Leading HVACR Distributor - Modern Distribution Management

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MDM Podcast: The Master Group Wants to be North America’s Leading HVACR Distributor

We chat with The Master Group President Neil McDougall about the Quebec-based distributor's rapid recent growth and expansion roadmap.
The Master Group

The North American HVACR distribution market has seen its fair share of considerable news in recent months. Since December 2022, movers and shakers include:

That’s a lot of activity in a little more than three months.

But there’s an addition to that list that I found particularly interesting and was the focus of our latest MDM Podcast episode. 

On March 2, Novacap Management-backed The Master Group announced the acquisition of Valley View, Ohio-based Refrigeration Sales Corporation (RSC) from Rotunda Capital Partners. It marked the second U.S.-based acquisition for Boucherville, Quebec-based The Master Group in about 15 months, following its December 2021 addition of Richmond, Virginia-based Value Added Distributors.

Combined, those two deals suddenly give The Master Group a strong U.S. footprint to the tune of 29 branch locations across six states — Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Previously, The Master Group served only the Canadian market, where it just bolstered its capabilities by opening a third Calgary branch in February

The Master Group brands itself as Canada’s largest privately-held HVACR distributor and one of the leading HVACR distributors in North America. It celebrated 70 years of business in March 2022, and today it has more than 1,300 employees across 85 branches and five distribution centers in Canada and the U.S.

RELATED: MDM Podcast – Here’s How Bluon is Changing the HVAC Game

Neil McDougall

“It’s been tremendously exciting. Tiring, absolutely, as well. But tremendously exciting,” The Master Group President Neil McDougall told me on the MDM Podcast. “The U.S. footprint for us— with this recent acquisition of RSC — takes our U.S. business to 35% of our overall portfolio. That’s happened very, very quickly and was all part of the plan. It’s been a lot of fun.”

That plan includes more U.S. growth as part of the bigger goal for The Master Group to “become the leading HVACR distributor in North America,” as CEO Louis St. Lawrence noted in the company’s March 2 news release for the RSC acquisition.

Behind the backing of Novacap — The Master Group’s private investment partner since 2014 — the company first expanded into Western Canada about four years ago, where it now has 19 branches, including three in Calgary. That expansion took the company coast-to-coast in Canada, and McDougall said the next logical step was to expand into the U.S.

McDougall couldn’t share specific details about future U.S. expansion plans, but he acknowledged that it’s certainly part of The Master Group’s roadmap. He estimated that the company now stands at about six times the size it was just eight years ago before Novacap partnered with it.

RELATED: HARDI Distributors Post 4% Revenue Increase in February

“They have backed us, they have supported us and they let us run our business,” McDougall said of Novacap. “They let us invest in the right things. It’s a great match. They really are a great partner, both historically and for the future.”

Our podcast touched on how The Master Group has leveraged the networking it has gained from its membership in HARDI and AD to grow its U.S. presence. I also asked him how the company is faring on the labor front and if he’s seen any major differences in the labor situation between the U.S. and Canada — as well as if product demand considerably differs between those nation borders.

Until the RSC acquisition news, I wasn’t actually familiar with The Master Group, but that news immediately made me interested in the company’s story behind its recent rapid growth. One thing is for sure: We can expect to hear more out of the company going forward.

Listen to the full MDM Podcast episode via the embedded audio player above, and you can find all of our past podcast episodes at our webpage for them here.

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