Wed, Jul 02, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Top-Flite Golf, crushed by debt, files for bankruptcy

AP , SPRINGFIELD, MASSACHUSETTS

The Top-Flite Golf Co, the world's largest golf ball producer, is filing for bankruptcy and plans to sell its assets to club maker Callaway Golf.

Top-Flite CEO Jim Craigie said Monday the company's US$250 million in sales in 2002 were being crushed by its US$530 million debt in a market that was too competitive. Under the deal, which needs government approval, Callaway would buy Top-Flite for US$125 million, free and clear of debt.

"You have a great marriage between the companies," Craigie said. "We're a top golf ball company, they're a top golf club company. We've got technology that they could benefit from in the golf ball industry, and we can benefit from the financial strength they can bring to our company."

Top-Flite, a private company, was formerly Spalding Sports Worldwide. The name was changed after the company sold the Spalding brand and its entire line of inflatable balls to athletic wear maker Russell Corp in April.

Craigie said he doesn't expect any interruption in supply, production or distribution of Top-Flite golf products. He said Callaway plans to continue making Top-Flite, Ben Hogan and Strata golf products, which account for about 70 percent of Top-Flite's sales.

He said no decisions about layoffs will be made until the sale is finalized, probably within the next three months.

"It's too early to speculate on the operational specifics," said Callaway vice president Larry Dorman.

Callaway, which reported earnings of US$792 million last year, is the world's largest producer of golf clubs, Dorman said.

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