The company that made bats for a who's who of baseball greats, including Babe Ruth and Ted Williams, announced a deal Monday to sell its Louisville Slugger brand to rival Wilson Sporting Goods for $70 million.That seems like the end of H & B to me.
The deal is expected to close this summer.
Hillerich & Bradsby is best known for making its Louisville Slugger baseball bats.
But the 130-year-old batmaker also makes baseball gloves, golf clubs and other sports equipment. It has faced headwinds in recent years, starting with a threat to its source of ash wood for its professional and amateur wooden bats.
About 60% of Major League Baseball players use Louisville Slugger bats, and the company has sold more than 100 million, according to H&B's website.
Wilson's deal to acquire the global brand, sales and innovation rights of Louisville Slugger still requires approval from H&B shareholders, according to the companies' joint announcement.
Update: A little more explanation:
Hillerich will continue to manufacture bats as it has for more than a century, but it will be up to glove maker Wilson, a unit of Helsinki-based Amer Sports Corp., to sell them.Translation: The family didn't want to risk putting more money into the company.
The move is aimed at spurring growth for the languishing brand. Louisville Slugger has signed a long roster of professional players, including Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, to endorsement deals over the years, but its market share has been waning. The company has struggled in recent times after series of missteps, including a costly bat recall.
Several years ago, some of its peers went on an investment-fueled expansion drive. Hillerich, meanwhile, remained family-owned, which limited its ability to invest.