Puma AG to acquire Cobra

Acushnet Co., parent of Titleist and FootJoy, announced March 10 an agreement to sell one of its core assets – the Cobra Golf brand – to rising industry player Puma AG.

Terms of the sale were not disclosed, but the transaction includes related inventory, intellectual property and endorsement contracts.

Rumors about a possible sale between the two parties had intensified during the 2010 PGA Merchandise Show, but at the time, Brian Zender, Cobra Golf’s general manager, told Golfweek that the company was not for sale. However, he didn’t dismiss the notion that Cobra was entertaining offers.

“We’re not on the block. . . . We’re part of Acushnet,” he said, adding, “There are always things that come up and opportunities, and I think that those will be considered by whatever is presented to Acushnet and Cobra.”

Apparently, what Puma presented was enticing enough.

The German-based sporting goods and apparel company has been making steady investments into its golf business, and in December, made a greater commitment to the North American market. It established a standalone subsidiary for the region to improve sales. In addition, Puma caused a buzz in the industry when it signed heralded PGA Tour rookie Rickie Fowler to an apparel deal. For some time, industry observers had speculated when Puma would try to enhance its portfolio by complementing its softgoods with golf equipment.

Offering a full array of products and tapping into Cobra’s retail distribution network should bolster Puma’s selling clout. Puma officials also are confident Cobra’s identity – which targets a bolder, younger demographic – meshes well with their brand image. Cobra’s tour staff includes Camilo Villegas, Ian Poulter and J.B. Holmes.

In a statement, Puma chairman and CEO Jochen Zeitz said: “Cobra Golf has a history of innovative performance products fused with an edge and is therefore a perfect fit for Puma.”

Meanwhile, the proposed deal – expected to close early in the second quarter, pending regulatory approval – enables Acushnet, the golf division of Fortune Brands, to focus on its premier entities, Titleist and FootJoy.

photo

Camilo Villegas at the Accenture Match Play Championship.

“With the sale of Cobra, we have the opportunity to devote all of our resources to the global growth of (the two brands),” said Wally Uihlein, chairman and CEO of Acushnet.

When the sale is completed, it will mark the end of Acushnet’s 14-year-ownership of Cobra. In 1996, American Brands (later renamed Fortune Brands) acquired Cobra, which then had marquee players such as Greg Norman endorsing it. At the time, Cobra’s popularity was soaring with products such as the original Baffler, a versatile utility club.

An Acushnet statement indicated that all workers dedicated to the Cobra business are expected to become employees of Puma.

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