Independent mattress manufacturer Blue Bell Mattress Company (“Blue Bell”) has named bedding veteran Derek Ritzel as its new president and chief executive officer. Ritzel, who brings more than 27 years of mattress industry sales, product development, operations and executive experience to the company, succeeds Mark Kolovson, who has been named chairman of Blue Bell’s board of directors.
Kolovson, who joined the company in 1982 and had been CEO since 2000, led Blue Bell’s transformation from a regional, independent mattress manufacturer into a national player working with leading top 100 sleep retailers.
“Blue Bell has undergone tremendous growth and change during my 37 years here, and the company’s momentum will surely continue under Derek’s leadership,” Kolovson said. “The company is in great hands, and I look forward to seeing new initiatives and continued growth with him at the helm.”
Chris Sullivan, managing partner of majority owner Landon Capital Partners and Blue Bell board member, credited Kolovson for much of Blue Bell’s current success, “Over the past 37 years Mark, along with his partner Steve Byer, transformed Blue Bell from a small family business into a best-in-class national manufacturing company.”
“He also developed the strategic plan of expanding Blue Bell’s operations by geography, by brand and by anchor customers, which are the foundation of our investment thesis,” Sullivan said. “It’s a great combination to have Mark’s savvy, industry knowledge and long tenured experience in the chairman role and the youth, energy and drive that Derek brings as our new CEO.”
Ritzel held a number of positions at some of the bedding’s leading brands, including Sealy and Tempur-Sealy International. He also held stints as president at two home furnishings companies.
Most recently, Ritzel was president of Colonial LLC, a retail display and branding company for the home furnishings industry. Prior to that, he was chief executive officer of Pride Family Brands, a casual furniture manufacturer that makes the high-end Castelle brand and several private label and OEM products.
“The experience Derek brings to Blue Bell is very exciting. He is uniquely qualified to the be the president and CEO at this inflection point of the company’s development,” Sullivan said. “He’s played every important role in a large mattress company prior to his most recent CEO experience and he has multiple decades of experience in the bedding category in sales, operations and managerial roles.”
Prior to joining Pride, Ritzel spent 24 years at Sealy Inc. and Tempur-Sealy International. In his last post there, he was chief operating officer of Tempur-Sealy’s Canadian unit for more than three years. He earlier held a number of sales, marketing and product development posts of increasing responsibility.
“This is a tremendous opportunity to lead a company that is a key player producing branded products, with its partnerships with King Koil, Laura Ashley and Natura, and has robust private-label bedding capabilities,” Ritzel said. “That enables me to hit the ground running to develop strategies to further position Blue Bell as the retailer’s best producer of gross margin dollars in the mattress department.”
Ritzel joins a strong management team that includes David Brault, chief financial officer; Brian Chase, chief operations officer; Rebecca Gray, who was recently promoted to chief sales officer; and Richard Tauber, executive vice president of sales.
“The Blue Bell senior management team is talented and deep. We see Derek as the last piece of the puzzle to strengthen that foundation,” Sullivan said.
About Blue Bell: Blue Bell Mattress Co. Inc., based in East Windsor, Connecticut, is the largest U.S. manufacturing partner of King Koil. Blue Bell sells King Koil branded and private-label innerspring and hybrid mattresses to bedding and furniture retailers serving customers in nearly 1,000 store locations from Maine to Florida, and as far west as Illinois. The company is also a licensee of Natura World. Founded in 1928, the company has factories in Connecticut and Michigan totaling more than 340,000 square feet. Boston-based Landon Capital Partners, a direct private equity investment group of the Landon Trust, acquired a majority interest in Blue Bell in 2017.