Louisville Slugger offers Halloween-themed mini-bats that glow in the dark

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Louisville Slugger, the iconic American baseball bat brand dating to the 19th century, could soon be owned by a Chinese company.

Amer Sports, the Finnish company that bought Louisville Slugger in 2015, has agreed to a $5.2 billion acquisition by a consortium of investors led by Chinese sports retailer Anta Sports Products Ltd.

The consortium also includes tech giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Chip Wilson, the Canadian billionaire founder of athletic-apparel retailer Lululemon Athletica Inc., the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

Family-owned Hillerich & Bradsby Co. of Louisville announced in 2015 that it would sell the Louisville Slugger brand to Chicago-based Wilson Sporting Goods for $70 million. Wilson is a division of Amer Sports, based in Helsinki, Finland.

Hillerich & Bradsby continues to own and operate the Slugger bat factory at 8th and Main streets as Wilson's "exclusive manufacturer." Hillerich & Bradsby also retained the Slugger Museum. 

The Wilson sale resulted in the loss of 52 white-collar jobs in Louisville, but 173 Louisville employees remained following the sale. 

The sale of Amer Sports is expected to have "no immediate material effect on our people or operations," according to a statement by Bruno Sälzer, chairman of Amer Sports.Louisville Slugger is the official bat of Major League Baseball.

The brand dates to 1884, when John Andrew “Bud” Hillerich made a bat for Pete Browning of the Louisville Eclipse in the old American Association.

As baseball became a popular part of Americans' sporting life, H&B grew its batmaking operation. The company moved its Louisville Slugger plant to Jeffersonville, Ind., in the 1970s before returning to Louisville in the mid-1990s.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the bat factory was sold to Wilson. The Slugger brand was sold to Wilson, but Hillerich & Bradsby retained the factory.

Copyright 2018 WDRB News. All rights reserved.

Reach reporter Chris Otts at 502-585-0822, cotts@wdrb.com, on Twitter or on Facebook

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Chris Otts reports for WDRB.com about business and economic topics, higher education and local / state government. He joined WDRB News in 2013 after seven years with The Courier-Journal. Got a tip? Chris is at 502-585-0822 and cotts@wdrb.com.