Outdoor gear giant Bass Pro will snap up rival Cabela's in a $4.5 billion deal announced Monday.
That probably doesn't mean that the Cabela's that opened last year alongside Interstate 75 in Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., will close, while the Bass Pro that opened this year in East Ridge alongside I-75 will stay open, said Ft. Oglethorpe Mayor Earl Gray.
"They'd probably keep both of them open, I would think," said Gray, who said he's heard rumors for the last two years that the two giant outdoor stores would merge.
"That was rumor going around when they located here to start with," the mayor said.
Cabala's is geared more toward hunters, Gray said, while Bass Pro caters to anglers.
"They may have to make an executive decision and turn one of them into a hunting store and one of them into a fishing store," Gray said. "I think most of Cabela's locations are in a short distance of the Bass Pros."
The Catoosa County Development Authority spent $1.5 million preparing the site for the Cabela's store in Fort Oglethorpe with the expectation that the county would get back $750,000 a year in tax revenue. The Cabela's here also hired about 140 employees.
Bass Pro is paying Cabela's shareholders $65.50 cash per share, a 19 percent premium to Friday's closing price. The deal combines two companies known for their giant destination superstores.
It also creates uncertainty about jobs in Cabela's home state of Nebraska. The combined companies plan to keep some operations in Sidney and Lincoln, Nebraska, but it's not immediately clear how many jobs might be lost.
Cabela's employs about 2,000 people in the western Nebraska town of Sidney, which has about 7,000 residents. State Sen. Ken Schilz, who represents the area, said the news is concerning because of the duplication between the two companies' headquarters that will be eliminated.
"We'll just have to wait and see what Bass Pro does. I'm sure most folks in Sidney are pretty nervous this morning," Schilz said.
Activist investment firm Elliott Management began pushing for significant changes at Cabela's last fall. Elliott owns 7.4 percent of Cabela's shares and holds options to buy another 3.8 percent.
Bass Pro founder and CEO Johnny Morris said he hopes to continue growing the Cabela's brand alongside his privately-held Springfield, Missouri, based chain.
"The story of each of these companies could only have happened in America, made possible by our uniquely American free enterprise system," Morris said. "We have enormous admiration for Cabela's, its founders and outfitters, and its loyal base of customers."
Capital One will take over running Cabela's credit card unit as part of the deal, which is backed by $1.8 billion in financing from Goldman Sachs and another $600 million from private equity fund Pamplona Capital.
Cabela's was founded in 1961 when Dick Cabela started selling fishing flies through the mail from his kitchen table with his wife, Mary, and brother, Jim.
Bass Pro got its start in 1971 when Morris began selling high-quality fishing tackle in his dad's liquor store in Springfield, Missouri.
Morris developed a following in the Ozarks region — its lakes and rich streams a haven for anglers — created the Bass Pro Shop Catalog in 1974 and opened the first of his now 99 stores in Springfield seven years later.
Morris also introduced the Bass Tracker fishing boat in 1978 that was designed specifically for fishermen. That led to the creation of the White River Marine Group.
Cabela's shares climbed $8.01, or 14.6 percent, to $62.94 in morning trading Monday.