VAN NUYS, CA (BRAIN) — On Wednesday the Reuters news service, citing unnamed sources, reported that Easton-Bell Sports owner Fenway Partners was getting ready to sell the company. Easton-Bell Sports executives at the Bicycle Leadership Conference in Monterey, California, told BRAIN they are not commenting on news of the sale.
It is not clear if Fenway is trying to sell its beleaguered Riddell division or the entire company. Easton-Bell’s Riddell division makes helmets for the National Football League and many high school teams. Last week a jury in Colorado said Rhett Ridolfi was entitled to $11.5 million in damages for brain damage and partial paralysis he suffered while playing high school football in a Riddell helmet. Riddell will have to pay $3.1 million of those damages. Riddell is facing a similar lawsuit in Los Angeles, as well as suits from thousands of former NFL players for head injuries sustained while wearing Riddell helmets.
According to Easton-Bell Sports most recent financial filing, numerous lawsuits over Easton-Bell Sports’ helmets failing to protect football players, in part, helped grow the company’s operating expenses by $18.5 million last year. The company breaks down part of this increase to $6 million spent on litigation, and $6 million in severance expenses related to leadership changes. The company’s sales are also falling, down 11 percent in the fourth quarter, and one percent over all of 2012. Sales in 2012 were $827.2 million, down slightly from $834.9 million in sales in 2011.