Acushnet to be sold to Korean group led by Fila

Titleist balls on display during the 2010 PGA Merchandise Show.

Acushnet Co., owners of the Titleist and FootJoy brands, has reached an agreement to be acquired by an Asian group led by Fila Korea Ltd. and Mirae Asset Private Equity, the largest private equity firm in Korea.

The May 20 announcement of the pending sale ends months of intense industry speculation about the future of Acushnet, whose parent Fortune Brands decided in December to split its company, including possibly selling its golf division. Acushnet did not release terms of the sale, but the Associated Press reported Fortune anticipates reaping $1.1 billion after taxes and expenses following the deal's expected close this summer.

Though premature to assess the full impact of the ownership change, it clarifies key issues for Acushnet: The company will operate as a standalone entity and remain based in Fairhaven, Mass. Wally Uihlein and Acushnet's current management team, who have built Titleist and FootJoy into dominant product category leaders, will remain intact.

“The Fila Korea and Mirae group understands and appreciates our golf industry leadership, passionate associates, and unique and enduring culture," said Wally Uihlein, Acushnet's chairman and CEO. "Together, with our new owners, our team is looking forward to strengthening and building upon the global success of the Titleist and FootJoy brands.”

The acquisition also underscores not only Asia-Pacific's interest in golf, but its growing influence in shaping the sport and its industry. Ownership of Acushnet – one of the largest golf equipment companies in the world with annual sales exceeding $1.2 billion in 2010 – reflects the region's clout and holds the promise of boosting Acushnet's sales overseas.

“The fact that Asia Pacific represents over 30 percent of the world's total golf equipment spending, and that South Korean golfers are among the most passionate and organized in the game, is testament to the significant investment in the Acushnet Company by the Fila Korea and Mirae group," Uihlein said.

Fila Korea is the entity that owns the Fila brand globally. Established in Italy in 1911, Fila is a leading sport and leisure footwear and apparel brand. The acquisition group led by Fila Korea and Mirae, also includes the National Pension Service of Korea, the fourth-largest pension fund in the world, and Korea Development Bank, Korea's largest government-owned bank.

"With our extensive knowledge and reach in Asia, we believe that the Acushnet brands have incredible new opportunities for growth in the emerging markets in Asia,” said Gene Yoon, Fila Korea's chairman and CEO.

Said JH Ryu, chief executive of Mirae Asset Private Equity: “We will fully support the company (Acushnet) to remain focused on its core golf expertise and continue driving the growth of the industry.”

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