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Prince To Pauper: In Chap. 11, Prince Tennis To Join Marilyn Monroe, TapouT Group

By Barry Janoff

May 1, 2012: Prince Sports and its U.S. affiliates said they have filed voluntary petitions for Chapter 11 reorganization in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware.

Prince has also filed with the bankruptcy court its proposed plan of reorganization plan and related disclosure statement and "expects to move expeditiously towards confirmation of its plan."

Executives said the company would be taken over by Authentic Brands Group, which recently obtained the company’s debt. New York/Los Angeles-based ABG is a brand development and licensing firm whose management investments also include MMA company TapouT and the estates for Marilyn Monroe and Bob Marley.

Ironically, a commercial running on the Prince Web site under the umbrella tag, "Who's Next," begins with the words, "Greatness is fleeting. There is always the next one."

Current endorsers include the world's No. 1 ranked doubles players Mike and Bob Bryan; top-ranked men's singles players David Ferrer (No. 8), Gael Monfils (No. 14) and John Isner (No. 19); and top-ranked women's players Vera Zvonareva (No. 7), Marion Bartoli (No. 9) and Daniela Hantuchova (No. 24). Products have been used by Maria Sharapova, Martina Navratilova and other top-ranked players.

The company was founded in 1970 by Robert McClure, who named it after his residence of Princeton, NJ. It has had numerous owners, including since 2003 Benetton Group, Lincolnshire Management and most recently Nautic Partners.

“We anticipate to emerge from this period as a more efficient, performance racquet sports brand with a more competitive model in the market."

Prince said it would will utilize the Chapter 11 process to "develop a more competitive business model." Prince also said it has "secured a commitment of debtor-in-possession financing that will give its vendors and suppliers confidence in its position to operate in Chapter 11. This proposed restructuring would relieve the Company from a debt burden in excess of $60 million of secured indebtedness."

“We anticipate to emerge from this period as a more efficient, performance racquet sports brand with a more competitive model in the market, while eliminating the economic constraints that have prohibited the brand from achieving its potential,” Gordon Boggis, president and CEO of Prince Sports, Inc., said in a statement. “The Board of Directors, the senior management team and I would like to underscore our appreciation for the hard work and loyalty of our employees. Prince continues to be a world leader in bringing to market meaningful, visible and proven product innovation within the racquet sports market and our employees have contributed greatly to that.”

Prince products include racquets, footwear, tennis balls, strings, bag and accessories. Prince Sports’ portfolio of brands includes Prince (tennis, squash and badminton), Ektelon (racquetball) and Viking (platform/paddle tennis). Prince is distributed in more than 100 countries.

“Prince is, and will continue to be, a great, global brand in the racquet sports business. This filing does not change that,” said Boggis. “We have a long history, and are planning for an exciting future, focused on game-changing, product innovation, engineered to take players’ games to the next level. Securing this protection will help us to continue to focus on that vision.”

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