Marucci Sports Tightens Its Grip On Baseball, Buying Lizard Skins For Almost $50 Million

Baseball equipment company Marucci Sports today announced the acquisition of Lizard Skins, a manufacturer of grip tape used in baseball, hockey and other sports, as part of a bid to expand its position in the industry and test the waters in new markets. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. However, according to people familiar with the matter, the deal is worth nearly $50 million.

Since being founded by former major leaguer Kurt Ainsworth and a pair of partners in 2004, Marucci Sports has grown into a baseball-bat powerhouse. More than 25% of MLB players used Marucci bats on opening day this year, according to Bat Digest, the single highest share of any brand. Another 15% used Victus, a subsidiary of Marucci that the company acquired in 2017. That type of dominance is part of what led investment holding company Compass Diversified to purchase Marucci for $200 million in April 2020. Albert Pujols, Buster Posey, David Ortiz and several other active and retired MLB stars previously invested in Marucci, although the company would not disclose who is still actively involved. (Both brands are also featured as equip-able apparel in Sony Interactive’s MLB The Show video game franchise.)

But the major leagues are just a small fraction of Marucci’s business; Ainsworth says MLB accounts for “probably less than 2% overall sales.” Marucci posted a profit of $28 million on $99 million in revenue for the trailing 12 months ending on June 30. In addition to producing wood and aluminum bats from T-ball all the way to the pros, Marucci makes uniforms, batting gloves, bags and “pretty much everything right now but footwear in the baseball and softball world,” says Ainsworth, the CEO of the company.

“[Lizard Skins] will help enhance all of those products,” Ainsworth says, adding that the deal gives Marucci an opportunity to “really pour some gas on the fire with the brand they had created.”

Lizard Skins was founded in 1993 as a cycling accessories company. In 2012, four years after developing its flagship Durasoft Polymer grip, the company expanded into baseball, and it became officially licensed with MLB in 2016. Since 2018, Lizard Skins has brought its products to hockey (the company is licensed with the NHL) and lacrosse. It also produces gaming accessories like controller, mouse and joystick grips. When the deal closes, Lizard Skins is expected to remain independent under Marucci’s control, and founder Brian Fruit is expected to continue leading the brand. Lizard Skin declined to disclose its financials, but according to people familiar with the matter, the company is profitable.

Still, Marucci is not without challenges. The Covid-19 pandemic and sports world shutdown temporarily cut into Marucci’s earnings, and supply-chain issues persist. Ainsworth says the company has seen roughly two-to-four-week delays in certain cases, which could continue into next year, and has had to forgo boat shipping in favor of air shipping “more than we’d probably like.”

Ainsworth is optimistic, though, saying there’s still room for growth in the baseball and softball space. A deal like this could also gauge the possibility of Marucci expanding into other sports as well.

“We think there’s a lot more runway there,” Ainsworth says.

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