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Louisville Slugger maker announces deal to sell iconic brand

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    FILE - In this Oct. 5, 2013, file photo, a Pittsburgh Pirates ball cap and glove sit on the bat rack in the dugout during the baseball team's workout in Pittsburgh. The company that makes Louisville Slugger bats has announced a deal to sell the iconic brand to rival Wilson Sporting Goods Co. Wilson's deal to acquire the global brand, sales and innovation rights from Louisville Slugger's parent, Hillerich & Bradsby Co., still requires approval by H&B shareholders. Under terms of the agreement announced Monday, March 23, 2015, H&B will become Wilson's exclusive manufacturing partner for wood bats. H&B will continue to manufacture wood bats at its factory in Louisville, Kentucky. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
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The company that made bats for a who’s who of baseball greats, including Babe Ruth and Ted Williams, announced a deal Monday to sell its Louisville Slugger brand to rival Wilson Sporting Goods Co. for $70 million.

Hillerich & Bradsby Co. has made the iconic bats for more than 130 years, supplying the bats with the recognizable oval logo for generations of baseball players — from the sandlots to the big leagues.

Wilson’s deal to acquire the global brand, sales and innovation rights of Louisville Slugger still requires approval by H&B shareholders, according to the joint announcement Monday.

Under terms of the agreement, H&B will become Wilson’s exclusive manufacturing partner for wood bats. H&B will continue to manufacture wood bats at its factory in Louisville, Kentucky.

Wilson Sporting Goods is a division of Finnish sports equipment maker Amer Sports Corp. The Helsinki-based company said the deal is expected to be completed in the second half of this year.

H&B also will maintain ownership and continue to operate the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory and Gift Shop, a popular tourist destination.

H&B said its Bionic Gloves division and Powerbilt golf brand are not part of the deal.

H&B has made Louisville Slugger bats since 1884. H&B CEO John A. Hillerich IV said the decision to sell the brand was difficult, but says the company believes it needs to pursue a new business model.

“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,” he said in a statement.

Mike Dowse, president of Wilson Sporting Goods Co., said expanding the company’s baseball and softball business globally is a key part of its business strategy.

“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,” he said.

Wilson said it will market and sell Louisville Slugger-branded products through its baseball and softball business unit. The company currently manufactures and sells gloves, bats, uniforms, apparel, protective gear, accessories and player development equipment and training tools through its Wilson, DeMarini and ATEC brands. Like its DeMarini brand, Wilson will market and sell Louisville Slugger as a stand-alone brand.

Last year, Amer’s net sales totaled $2.5 billion. It employs 7,600 people worldwide.

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AP writer Matti Huuhtanen contributed to this report from Helsinki.

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