By Barry Janoff
March 23, 2015: Wilson, the official glove of Major League Baseball, and Louisville Slugger, the official bat of Major League Baseball, have been joined as tools of the trade for MLB players for decades.
Now they hit the playing field as business siblings.
Wilson Sporting Goods Co., a division of Amer Sports Corp., has acquired Louisville Slugger from parent Hillerich & Bradsby Co., which includes the global brand, sales and innovation rights to the iconic bat maker.
Financial terms were not released, but was put at $70 million by industry analsyts.
The deal is pending Hillerich & Bradsby shareholder approval.
The creation of the bats themselves will not be leaving Kentucky. Under the terms of the agreement, Hillerich & Bradsby will become Wilson's exclusive manufacturing partner for wood bats and will manufacture all Louisville Slugger-branded MLB, Minor League Baseball, amateur player and souvenir wood bats for Wilson.
Wilson said it would market and sell Louisville Slugger-branded products through its baseball and softball business unit, and that it would market and sell Louisville Slugger as a stand-alone brand, similar to Louisville Slugger's current marketing and sales strategy.
Hillerich & Bradsby will continue to manufacture wood bats at the company's downtown Louisville factory, and will also maintain ownership and continue to operate the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory and Gift Shop.
Hillerich & Bradsby's Bionic Gloves division and Powerbilt golf brand are not part of the agreement with Wilson.
Louisville Slugger said it has sold more than 100 million bats since it started in 1884. The first was a wooden bat manufactured by “Bud” Hillerich for Pete Browning, who played for the Louisville Eclipse Baseball Team of the American Association.
Since then, among the more than 8,000 pro baseball players who have been or are currently under contract to Louisville Slugger (including 60% of current MLBers): Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Jackie Robinson, Joe DiMaggio, Cal Ripken Jr., Robin Yount, Ken Griffey Jr., Buster Posey, Evan Longoria, Prince Fielder, Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Jones, Nelson Cruz, David Wright and Alex Rodriguez.
The bat used by Derek Jeter for his entire MLB career, the P72, had its product designation retired when Jeter retired following the 2014 season — the sole such honor in the company's history — and was rebranded DJ72.
"The decision to sell the Louisville Slugger brand was a difficult and serious one to make," John Hillerich IV, CEO for Hillerich & Bradsby, said in a statement. "The Hillerich family, and those closest to the brand, firmly believes that a new business model is necessary to realize the enormous potential of this brand in the future. We recognized from our first conversation with Wilson that they would be a great partner and steward of the brand our family created and so many have nurtured for 131 years."
"The decision to sell the Louisville Slugger brand was a difficult and serious one to make (but) a new business model is necessary."
Wilson currently manufactures and sells high performance gloves, bats, uniforms, apparel, protective gear, accessories, and player development equipment and training tools through its Wilson, DeMarini and ATEC brands.
According to Mike Dowse, President for Wilson Sporting Goods, "We are excited to welcome Louisville Slugger into the Wilson family. Growing our baseball and softball business globally is a key business strategy, and H&B has created one of the most recognizable baseball brands in the world. We believe Louisville Slugger will enrich our company significantly, enhance our baseball and softball product offering at all levels of the game, and ensure we are delivering only the best performance products to athletes of every age."
PHOTOS COURTESY LOUISVILLE SLUGGER
Back to Home Page