Prince's Bankruptcy Filing Comes Amid Additional Competition, Flat Equipment Sales
Prince Sports' move to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Tuesday marks the "latest step in the company’s years-long fight to stay afloat in the sporting goods business," according to Ed Beeson of the Newark STAR-LEDGER. The company’s story lately "turned to struggle, even as it introduced new technologies, such as its O3 racquets, that helped it recapture some past glory." Princeton Tennis Program Exec Dir Gwen Guidice said of Prince, "It’s been in a state of flux for the past 10 years." Beeson noted the company in late '10 "started to look for parties interested in licensing certain its businesses, and eventually buyers," Prince learned in late March that N.Y.-based Authentic Brands Group "bought $65 million of the company’s secured debt, and had an interest in acquiring the company." Prince said in its filing that as part of its bankruptcy plan, Authentic Brands Group "will extinguish the debt in exchange for total ownership" (NJ.com, 5/2). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Benoit & Gleason noted Prince "pioneered oversize and long tennis rackets and has sponsored some of the sport's best-known athletes, including Jennifer Capriati and Maria Sharapova." Prince "currently sponsors Gaël Monfils, who is ranked No. 14 on the men's tour, and Vera Zvonareva, the No. 10 woman." The company "blamed increased competition amid the economic downturn for the start of its financial woes" (WSJ.com, 5/1). TENNIS.com's Steve Tignor noted the two-decade rise of Babolat "from string maker to racquet-making titan was the biggest" of Prince's new competitors. The company was also "hurt by the recession and flat tennis-equipment sales across the board." Prince "put money into developing its EXO3 technology and continued to try to sell its frames at high prices." But having its "most famous endorser, Maria Sharapova, defect from an EXO3 Black to a Head frame in 2010 didn’t help." Tignor wrote it is "all a shame, because from start to finish Prince was an innovator." Prince leaves "a legacy of quality." The company was "proud that they continued to put money into R&D, into trying to make their racquets better." At the same time, though, many consumers "were drawn to the updated vintage frames that have been issued by Dunlop and Wilson in recent years" (TENNIS.com, 5/1).