Baseball’s regular season hasn’t officially started, but sporting goods maker Wilson may already have the biggest hit, with the purchase of bat maker Hillerich & Bradsby, which makes the legendary Louisville Slugger.
The deal is worth $70 million, and will make H&B the exclusive wooden bat manufacturer for Wilson. H&B will remain a stand-alone brand and continue to manufacture the bats at the Louisville, Kentucky, factory, and own the museum and gift shop. However, more than 50 jobs will be cut out of a workforce that numbers more than 270.
Wilson is owned by Finnish parent company Amer Sports Oyj, which makes and markets sports equipment, apparel and shoes. The H&B brands Bionic Gloves and Powerbilt golf brand are not part of the agreement.
The purchase now means Amer owns baseball’s official bat and glove. The Louisville Slugger brand is used by 60% of all Major Leaguers, according to the H&B web site.
H&B CEO John A. Hillerich IV called the decision “difficult,” but in a statement, said it was the right thing to do, "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 company also has a full line of other sporting goods, but increased competition and trouble with one of them may have led to the decision to sell. ESPN reports H&B has been dogged by lawsuits because of injuries from its line of metal bats, which were recalled because in some cases they would break off at the handle. The company says it brought in about $75 million in revenue last year.
It’s another notch in the win column for Chicago-based Wilson. The company also makes the official ball for the National Football League and the official basketball for the NCAA Championships.
Amer Sports reported revenue of $2.4 billion last year.