Thursday, March 22, 2012

Analyzing Taylor Made's Purchase of Adams Golf

This has been a big news week in my world – the PGA Tour announced significant structural changes, my company TGA officially announced the launch of TGA Premier Youth Tennis with the USTA as a Founding Partner, Los Angeles announced itself as a meaningful startup community at Start Engine’s Demo Day (where I’m a Mentor), and Taylor Made announced its acquisition of Adams Golf.

I’m going to talk about all of these items in future blogs, especially TGA’s strategic decision to enter the tennis industry as the lessons learned are already reminding me of case studies I used to debate in business school. 
Today, however, I want to look at Taylor Made’s Acquisition of Adams Golf, which was announced on Monday.  I’m going to look at it from three perspectives – financial, strategic, and implications for entrepreneurs.

Taylor Made Adidas Golf Group acquired Adams Golf for ~$70 million, or $10.80 per share. This represents a premium of ~71% over the share price from before Adams Golf announced it was examining major new strategic directions in early January and a 9.5% premium over their closing price last Friday of $9.86.  Upon news of the acquisition, shares rose 8.8% to $10.73 on Monday (where it currently remains), indicating that the market likes the acquisition, at least for Adams Golf.  Shareholders must like it too considering the stock at this time last year was $5.22.
Adams Golf had $11.85 million of operating income in 2011 on $96.50 million of revenue, so Taylor Made gets an equipment company that is profitable with ~12% operating margin. This seems pretty good considering Callaway, the other publicly-traded golf equipment company, had an operating margin of almost -10% last year with $81.09 million of losses on $886.53 million of revenue.  Therefore, Taylor Made paid 0.72x revenue and 6x earnings.  I don’t have any comps to compare these multiples to, but at first glance they look pretty good to me considering the lack of profitable equipment manufacturers in the industry.

Adams Golf’s focus on mid-high handicappers nicely complements TM’s portfolio of products that focus on low-mid handicappers.  Therefore, the acquisition buys top-to-bottom market share for Taylor Made.  Additionally, when analyzed through Porter’s Five Forces (which is a great model for looking at strategic decisions), the deal looks like a good one:
Threat of New Competition – the acquisition makes the largest golf equipment manufacturer even larger.  I agree with many leaders in the golf industry who feel that we’re about to see consolidation amongst equipment manufacturers and this move is a step in that direction.  As a result, threat of new entrants into the market decreases as barriers such as capital requirements, brand equity and economies of scale tilt more in favor of Taylor Made. Analysis – thumbs-up for TM.

Threat of Substitute Products or Services – since there are no alternatives to golf clubs – meaning, you need to have them and them alone to play on a golf course – this “force” doesn’t apply much to the acquisition.  In terms of customers spending their time/money on activities that substitute for golf, this deal also has no impact. Analysis – neutral for TM.
Bargaining Power of Customers – consolidation almost always leads to less bargaining power for customers due to fewer options that create less competition.  Analysis – thumbs-up for TM.
Bargaining Power of Suppliers – this move gives greater economies of scale to TM and therefore gives them greater influence over suppliers. Analysis – thumbs-up for TM.

Intensity of Competitive Rivalry – I believe the acquisition will increase rivalry in the short-term as competitors scramble to compete with a growing market leader through increased advertising spending and so forth.  However, in the long-term, I don’t believe any equipment company can create a sustainable competitive advantage through innovation due to USGA regulations.  Therefore, manufacturers will (and are) evolving from R&D houses to marketing firms.  Once this happens, golf clubs will essentially become a commodity from a technological standpoint and industry leaders will need to succeed through brand equity.  New  private-label entrants will then be able to enter the market with equal quality and significantly reduced price-points through reduced overhead, thus increasing competitive rivalry for everyone.  For both the short-term and long-term, that spells trouble for Taylor Made.  But, I believe this will happen regardless of the Adams acquisition. Analysis - neutral for TM.

For entrepreneurs, I think consolidation is bad news in the short term and good news in the long term.  As technology becomes a commodity, and big players fail to innovate (as is often the case with consolidation), opportunities will arise for new entrants to capitalize on the huge market of people who want top-of-the-line technology but don’t want to pay $500 for a driver.  If and when that happens, hopefully entrepreneurs will be there with a solution that makes golf more affordable and therefore gets more players into the game.


  1. Wade J Pudwill, ASLA, LEED Green Assoc.March 26, 2012 at 8:05 AM

    Hello Steve,

    I certainly agree with your thoughts regarding the short and long term outlooks for golf entrepreneurs like myself; however, as for golf participation, I feel this merger is just another blow to our industry. As I'm sure you are aware, according to the National Golf Foundation (NGF), several public golf courses have closed in 2011 and several more may be closing in 2012?

    I was in the golf industry for 16+ years before leaving and going to work for an engineering consulting company. After six (6) years, I have decided the golf industry needs me more! In saying that, I simply mean that my passion for golf is better served in the golf industry as opposed to engineering. I have been preparing a golf course management business plan which not only includes aggressive marketing, but involves injecting my passion into the community and drawing all demographics and organizations back to the game of golf. In my opinion, I feel our golf facility operators are waiting for someone to come up with a “big idea” hoping participation will magically increase? By no means am I throwing course managers under the bus, I am simply saying that we had it great for a long time and feel we need to re-educate ourselves or I’m afraid we will continue to loose the only facilities available to new golf participation. I hope all who read this can refocus and go after what we love.

    I believe you mentioned it in an earlier blog and Sir Ken Robinson elaborated about it in his book “The Element”. Not only should entrepreneurs stop waiting for a “big idea” to come to them, but we should all be more progressive and apply our skills of aptitude, passion and attitude which will lead to OPPORTUNITY. This is the basis for my management plan and hope more course managers will change their management styles by getting involved in their communities! Maybe the PGA can look to implement this thinking into their current PGA membership curriculum?


    Wade J Pudwill, ASLA, LEED® Green Assoc.
    913 Dorset Way
    Trent Woods, NC 28562

  2. Wade, thanks for your comment and sharing your thoughts. I agree that the golf industry needs to become proactive about getting more people in the game. That means more proactive marketing, programming that takes place off-site (like what my company TGA does with after school enrichment programs), accesssible and affordable starter programs, engaging moms and kids and making the golf course experience more friendly for them, and so forth. Good luck with your return to the golf industry and let me know if there's anything I can do to be of assistance.

  3. Steve, any chance you would be interested in going over a business plan for a new tech driven golf business? I tried sending you a copy via email but I am unsure whether you received it. If you are interested, let me know. I am really looking to get some feedback on the idea, which I think will revolutionize the golf retail market.