NEW YORK — Nike could be interested in making a play for Callaway Golf Co. — but it's not the only company interested.
Industry speculation about Nike buying Callaway heated up last week. "We won't comment on any acquisitions," a Nike spokeswoman said. She declined to comment about whether Nike had been in talks with Callaway, a $900 million Carlsbad, Calif.-based company that owns Callaway Golf, Odyssey, Top-Flite and Ben Hogan.
According to published reports Friday, two Boston buyout firms, Bain Capital LLC and Thomas Lee Partners, have also shown interest. Spokesmen for Bain and Thomas Lee declined comment. In May, Thomas Lee Partners teamed up with Fidelity National Financial to submit an unsolicited bid, according to The Los Angeles Times. FNC chairman and chief executive officer William Foley 2nd did not return a phone call Friday.
Brad Holiday, chief financial officer for Callaway, declined to comment about an acquisition.
He did confirm that in June Callaway said it "received a mild inquiry and the company is exploring all strategic opportunities." At last month's annual shareholders' meeting, the company acknowledged it has hired Lazard Ltd. to explore its options.
In terms of Nike's interest, one senior athletic industry executive, who asked not to be identified, said Nike has had Callaway on its radar for six months or more, but "the price was fluctuating."
"They missed out on The North Face a long time ago. It was dangled in front of them and they let it go because of ACG [the brand's label aimed at outdoor enthusiasts]. The North Face [business] has continued to grow," he said. North Face is now owned by VF Corp.
Buying Callaway would fit in with Nike's strategy to acquire ancillary businesses as it has with Cole Haan, Converse, Starter and Bauer. "It makes total sense, but Nike said in its last [earnings] call that it is not in an acquisition mode," he said.
With Callaway under its umbrella, Nike, which sponsors Tiger Woods, would be in a better position to square off against Greg Norman, the Reebok-owned golf label named after the pro golfer. According to sources, the brand's namesake was said to be blindsided by last week's Adidas-Reebok news and was peeved Reebok honcho Paul Fireman had not kept him in the loop.Callaway last week ended a yearlong search for a chief executive officer by naming George Fellows, a former Revlon ceo who has been a consultant for the past five years. Holiday declined to comment about whether acquisitions are a priority for Fellows.
Fellows, who also serves as Callaway's president and a director, has 40 years of experience in the consumer goods business. His experience would seem to sit well with Nike's ceo William Perez, another veteran of the consumer products arena who took over the mantle from Phil Knight last year.
In June, Callaway extended its endorsement deal through 2010 with Hall of Fame golfer Annika Sorenstam, whom it first signed when she turned professional in 1993. Callaway, along with Nike and other leading sports brands, is keeping close tabs on amateur sensation 16-year-old Michelle Wie, who is expected to have a windfall of sponsorship deals when she turns pro. Holiday declined comment about whether Callaway is interested in signing the teenager, other than to say that is not something the company would discuss unless a deal was reached.
Another point of common interest is China, where both Callaway and Nike market their products. "China is obviously a market of interest and it is also a challenging market," said Holiday, adding the brand has a small presence there through a distributor. Golf has not yet taken off in China as most of its 1.4 billion residents have never picked up a golf club.
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
@eyeswoon blogger Athena Calderone debuted her first-ever cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food. Pictured here are her miso glazed carrots from the book. Get the recipe on WWD.com. (📷: @johnny_miller_) #wwdeye
“It’s passion that helps get anybody to a certain point and it’s what’s propelled me,” said Kith founder @ronniefieg, one of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables who are changing the face of retail, fashion and beauty. Fieg, who opened a Manhattan flagship on October 7, began his career at age 13 as a stock boy and salesman for footwear chain David Z. “I think staying true to [my] beliefs, hard work and passion have gotten me to where [Kith] is today.” See the rest of the 40 at WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
25-year-old @samweaving is about to break out this fall, starring in Netflix’s horror film “The Babysitter,” fittingly out today on Friday the 13th. That’s not the only place you’ll be seeing her, though — Weaving’s got a role Showtime’s “SMILF” and another alongside Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Though she’s got a full plate at the moment, there’s one role she’s got her eye on: Marilyn Monroe. “I’m a little too young at the moment, but it’s on my bucket list,” the actress told WWD (📷: @dandoperalski) #wwdeye
BFF's Poppy Jamie and Suki Waterhouse celebrated the launch of their bag line Pop x Suki at Nordstrom last night. "The line is really about our friendship, and how we are so different but complement each other," said Waterhouse. 👯 (📷: Katie Jones) #wwdeye
After designing the new @louisvuitton and @bulgariofficial flagships and a @chanelofficial boutique opening in Japan, @petermarinoarchitect has another project on his plate: The Lobster Club. Located in the Seagram Building, it’s the famed architect’s first restaurant project in New York, serving up modern Japanese brasserie-style cuisine. Bronze hues, bespoke material detailing, blush and chartreuse tones and a heavy emphasis on Picasso can be seen throughout. Mark your calendars for Nov. 1 for the much-anticipated opening. (📷: @clint_spaulding) #wwdeye
Did you know: @carlychaikin of "Mr. Robot" has been painting for about a decade? The actress, who plays Darlene on the show, is a self-taught artist who lists Salvador Dalí and Chuck Close as some of her idols. Chaikin told WWD that painting is a form of meditation for her — A much-needed one given the intensity of "Mr. Robot." See a piece Chaikin is working on at WWD.com (📷: @jilliansollazzo) #wwdeye