The majority shareholders of Bollé have signed a definitive agreement to sell the sports and street eyewear company to Worldwide Sports & Recreation, a private company that owns the Bushnell and Voit brands. WSR plans to run Bollé as a separate, stand-alone company, but with major synergies in warehousing and distribution with Bushnell, a major supplier of binoculars and telescopes that had sales of $156 million (e155m) last year. Afterall, both product lines target the active lifestyle consumer.

The future new owners want to take Bollé private through a tender offer, due to be completed next January, at a price of $5.25 (e5.21m) in cash, which represents a premium of 62 percent over the share price on the eve of the first announcement of an agreement in principle. The offer values Bollé at about $85 million (e84m), including assumption of debt.

Taken over by its former US distributor 3 years ago, Bollé, which continues to manufacture in France, improved its consolidated sales and profits for past three consecutive quarters. For the 3rd quarter ended last Sept. 30, the company reported a net profit of $370,000 (e370,000) as against a loss of $12,000 in the year-ago period. Earnings before depreciation, interest and tax were up 70 percent to $1.7 million (e1.7m). Sales rose by 8 percent in the quarter to $14,887,000 (e14,784,000), but they were up 21 percent for the whole 9-month period to $46,303,000 (e45,981,000).



Coinciding with the new takeover plans, Gary Kiedaisch, a sports enthusiast who was largely responsible for the company's turnaround, has decided to leave the company to act as president and CEO of Bauer Nike Hockey. Kiadaisch negotiated earlier this year a deal for Bollé to manufacture Nike branded ski goggles. He is being replaced on an interim basis by Martin Franklin, chairman of Bollé. Joe Messner, CEO of WSR, will likely assume the position after the takeover, perhaps only on a temporary basis.

Under Kiedaisch, Bollé's sales increased by 50 percent to a projected 1999 level of $65 million (e64.5m). Most of the growth took place in North America, which now accounts for 38 percent of sales. The cost base has been reduced considerably there, but European operations are only now beginning to make a profit, with sales up in the last few months.

Last June, Kiedaisch assigned a longtime associate, Ken D'Arcy, to run Bollé Europe, replacing Patrick Rosier who has left the company. D'Arcy, who worked with Kiedaisch previously at sports companies like Head, Tyrolia and Blizzard, joined Bollé 18 months ago to redress its Canadian operations and to work with Kiedaisch in the USA. D'Arcy is reorganizing Bollé Europe to make it less dependent on US revenues and to follow a more global marketing approach. Brigitte Bollé, who was in charge of European marketing, left the company last January. Maurice and Franck Bollé are still with the company.

Bollé introduced at last month's SILMO an aggressive new line of sunglasses, representing one-third of its offer in this sector. Last September, Bollé announced a new shooting eyewear system, jointly developed with the Browning arms company.