NEW YORK — Benetton Group is said to be near a deal to sell its Rollerblade and Nordica units.

This story first appeared in the January 7, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The company is negotiating a deal with The Hockey Co., a Montreal-based firm, for Rollerblade. A Hockey spokeswoman confirmed Monday that talks are continuing. Benetton declined to comment, but insiders at Rollerblade said a deal should be struck in a week or so.

Benetton is also shopping around its other athletic labels —Nordica ski boots and apparel and Prince tenniswear — which have weighed heavily on financial results. This is part of the firm’s strategy to focus the clothing unit on its core sportswear business and shed non-core assets. Benetton’s sporting goods sales, which account for about 13 percent of group sales, fell 18 percent to $211 million in the first nine months of last year. Benetton’s sales for 2001 were $2.19 billion.

The company is in talks with the Zanetta and Viccari families, which own other ski labels including Tecnica, Volkl and Marker, a Nordica spokeswoman said Monday. That deal is expected to be wrapped up in 30 days.

Last week, the billionaire Benetton family unveiled a $15 billion takeover proposal for Autostrade, the Italian toll-road operator, by handing a bid prospectus to the Italian markets regulator. The move was made through its majority stake in a holding company, Schemaventotto. The family already owns 30 percent of Autostrade, and has offered to buy the remaining 70 percent at nearly $10 a share.

The Benetton family is directing its focus to transport and service-related companies. They already own Autogrill, a restaurant and catering chain in Italian highway service stations, as well as a 40 percent stake in Grandi Stazioni, which manages concourses at Italy’s largest railway stations.