Argo In Sports Memorabilia –

SnapShot:

Target: Hunter Manufacturing Group Inc.

Buyer: Argo Management Partners

Financial Advisor: Seller: Sperry, Mitchell & Co.

There’s a sport for every season and a season for every sport. So no matter what time of year it is, there’s always a game to catch somewhere. And from a business perspective, perhaps no industry is as good at keeping its customer base coming back day after day, year after year, as the sports industry is.

But the buck certainly doesn’t stop there. The market for sports apparel, such as sneakers, hats and jackets bearing franchise logos picks up where the actual teams and sports networks leave off. And then there’s the niche market for sports collectibles like the ubiquitous shot glass or coffee mug.

It is precisely the latter market that private equity firm Argo Management Partners finds an appealing space to invest in. Earlier this month, the Chicago-based buyout shop acquired Hunter Manufacturing Group Inc., a designer, producer and wholesaler of licensed sports collectibles.

As a part of the transaction, Argo also acquired Hunter’s Canadian subsidiary, Hunter Licensed Sports Distributing Ltd., based in North York, Ontario. Deal pros at Argo declined to comment for this story and the deal price was not disclosed.

To an extent, growth in the sports paraphernalia market is hindered only by the imagination. When Hunter was founded in 1988, it only produced drink-ware items made of glass and ceramic. The company has since made more than 20 product line acquisitions that enable it to create collectibles and every-day use items, such as stationery, pet accessories, mouse-pads and furniture pieces.

“The only way to really leverage these professional sports licenses is to put those team logos on more and more products,” said Tom Pogacnik, a vice president at Sperry, Mitchell & Co., the investment bank that ran the process for Hunter.

Additionally, Hunter’s revenue stream continues to widened as more and more new sports franchises emerge from sports leagues it already has licenses with, Pogacnik said.

“Hunter has also started branching out from sports licenses to others areas. For example, it has a license with Jack Daniel’s, which has great synergies with Hunter’s drink-wear line,” Pogacnik said, adding that companies like John Deere and General Motors have also approached Hunter as a way of getting their brand names on a wider base of products.

Hunter currently holds more than 150 licenses for leagues, such as MLB, NASCAR, NBA, NFL and NHL as well as for a number of colleges and universities. The company supplies its ware to on-line and mail-order catalogs, event merchandisers, and big-box stores. In all, Hunter’s products find their way to more than 8,000 retail outlets throughout the U.S. and Canada, Pogacnik said.

Hunter’s existing management team will continue to operate the company, with the addition of Daniel Campbell (an Argo Management principal) as CEO, and John Fitzgerald (also an Argo Management principal) as chief development officer.