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Finnish firm’s Wilson brand purchases Louisville Slugger

Louisville Slugger, the more than 120-year-old bat-maker that equipped Hall of Famers such as Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and Hank Aaron, is being sold to Wilson Sporting Goods.

Hillerich & Bradsby Co., parent of Louisville Slugger, agreed to sell the bat manufacturer to Finnish sporting goods company Amer Sports’ Wilson brand, the two companies said in a joint news release. The sale is pending shareholder approval at Louisville, Ky.-based Hillerich & Bradsby.

The $70 million all-cash transaction is expected to close in the second quarter, Amer Sports said in a separate news release.

With the sale, Wilson would own the official glove of Major League Baseball while adding the official bat – Louisville Slugger.

Closely held Hillerich & Bradsby will become Wilson’s exclusive manufacturing partner for wood bats, continuing to produce them at its downtown Louisville factory.

“The Hillerich family, and those closest to the brand, firmly believes that a new business model is necessary to realize the enormous potential of this brand in the future,” John A. Hillerich IV, the company’s CEO, said in a statement. “We recognized from our first conversation with Wilson that they would be a great partner and steward of the brand our family created and so many have nurtured for 131 years.”

Hillerich was a woodworking shop when John A. Hillerich began making bats there in 1884 – with the brand registered a decade later. Today, 60 percent of MLB players use Louisville Slugger, according to the company’s website. It has sold more than 100 million bats.

The company became Hillerich & Bradsby in 1916 when Frank Bradsby became a partner.

Amer Sports, based in Helsinki, owns a collection of sports brands, including Wilson, which is headquartered in Chicago. In 2005, the company agreed to buy Adidas-Salomon AG’s winter sports unit for $624 million, and it makes Precor fitness equipment and Suunto diving equipment.

“Louisville Slugger will enrich our company significantly, enhance our baseball and softball product offering at all levels of the game, and ensure we are delivering only the best performance products to athletes of every age,” Mike Dowse, president of Wilson, said in a statement.