Bauer Buys Easton-Bell Baseball/Softball, As Company Continues Shedding Assets
Bauer Performance Sports has purchased the baseball and softball business of Easton-Bell Sports for $330M in an all-cash deal. The transaction is slated to close in the next 30-60 days. Bauer will own the Easton brand name as well, but will continue to allow Easton-Bell to use it for its hockey and cycling businesses under a license agreement. Individual pieces of Easton-Bell Sports, parent company of helmet maker Riddell, Giro, and several other brands, became available after a failed effort last year to sell the company as a whole, reportedly in part because of football-related legal liabilities. Bauer President & CEO Kevin Davis said, "This is a transformative transaction. Easton is a market leader in diamond sports. The counter-seasonality of this business (compared to hockey) also balances out our revenue stream." Bauer said Easton Baseball and Softball will still operate out of current facilities in Van Nuys, Calif., and Salt Lake City. Following the sale, Easton-Bell will rename itself BRG Sports (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer). Morgan Stanley acted as financial advisor, while Ropes & Gray acted as legal advisor to Easton-Bell in connection with the transactions (Easton-Bell). The GLOBE & MAIL's Bertrand Marotte writes Bauer has "been on a diversification tear in recent years, buying into the baseball, lacrosse and clothing segments as it deals with a challenging hockey market (GLOBE & MAIL, 2/14).
NOTHING TO LOSE: In N.Y., Josh Kosman writes it appears Fenway Partners, the parent of Easton-Bell, is "going with an empty backfield as its best defense against future liabilities over concussions suffered by NFL players." Easton-Bell on Thursday also announced that it is "working toward an agreement with a third party for the sale of Easton Hockey." A source said that selling these assets means the company will "have a smaller balance sheet, with potentially fewer assets to target in pending lawsuits." There are presently "several prominent suits filed against Easton-Bell and Riddell." Another source noted that Easton-Bell will "use the proceeds largely to pay down" its $326M in debt. Sources said that Fenway is now "selling what it can in pieces." Yet another source said that there is the "possibility that plaintiffs suing Riddell in a few years, if successful, could force the remaining company into bankruptcy and have trouble collecting large awards" (N.Y. POST, 2/14).