A group led by Fila Korea "has agreed to buy" Acushnet, the golf business of Fortune Brands, for $1.23B in cash in a "bid to tap into the growth of the sport in Asia," according to Rappeport & Thomas of the FINANCIAL TIMES. Fortune on Friday said that the Fila consortium "would buy Acushnet, which includes the Titleist brand of golf balls, as the Illinois-based company proceeds with a plan to separate its three business lines." Fila's partners in the acquisition include Korea-based private equity group Mirae Asset Management, the National Pension Service of Korea and Korea Development Bank. The Acushnet business, which also includes Footjoy shoes, "attracted interest from other global sports groups, including Adidas, as well as private equity buyers." Fila has no existing golf business, and it "wants to tap into the growth of the game outside the mature markets" of the U.S. and Europe. Rappeport & Thomas noted the $1.23B purchase price is "close to the top end of bankers' estimates for what the business would fetch" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 5/21). Fortune expects to record $1.1B in "net proceeds when the deal closes this summer." The deal includes a $100M "break-up fee and can be terminated if the sale isn't completed by Aug. 1." Acushnet will "remain a stand-alone company once the deal is complete, maintaining its Fairhaven, Mass., headquarters and current management team" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/21).
SHAPING THE INDUSTRY: GOLFWEEK.com's Gene Yasuda wrote the deal "underscores not only Asia-Pacific's interest in golf, but its growing influence in shaping the sport and its industry." Ownership of Acushnet "reflects the region's clout and holds the promise of boosting Acushnet's sales overseas" (GOLFWEEK.com, 5/20). Acushnet CEO Wally Uihlein said, "This just underscores the next chapter in the company. We're a global company now. We already knew it, but now we're officially global. The last thing you want to be is U.S.-centric" (AP, 5/20). GOLF.com's Rob Sauerhaft wrote, "At first glance, this merger appears to be a win-win for both sides. Fila Korea, a $550 million company, gets a venerable $1.2 billion brand to make its entrée into the emerging Asian equipment market" (GOLF.com, 5/20). GOLF WORLD's E. Michael Johnson writes both Acushnet and the Fila-led consortium "appear to be winners." Acushnet is a "cash cow, and Fila and Mirae have the financial wherewithal to wait for the return on their investment" (GOLF WORLD MONDAY, 5/23 issue). GOLFCHANNEL.com's Rex Hoggard noted the "pending sale of Acushnet had been a hot topic within the industry for months, with bids reportedly being made" by Nike and adidas. The big question will be what the future holds for Titleist, the "industry leader in golf ball, glove, shoe and outerwear sales." At The Players earlier this month, 90 golfers used Titleist balls, "compared with 17 for the nearest competitor." In the short term, the new owners "seem content with the status quo" (THEGOLFCHANNEL.com, 5/20).