In the wake of adidas Group’s official announcement this week that the lead dog in its golf division – TaylorMade – is on the block, Yahoo’s Daniel Roberts caught up with former TaylorMade-adidas Golf CEO Mark King about the decision.
King, now president of adidas North America, is the man who beginning in 1999 brought TaylorMade from an also-ran behind Callaway Golf Co. to the top of the golf equipment industry by the end of 2012. King’s also the man who has been blamed for TMaG’s downfall the past three years, along with the downfall of golf sales at Dick’s Sporting Goods and basically everywhere else. Forget the fact that golf rounds and participation – as well as equipment sales across the board – have been stagnate at best the best decade, King has unfairly been a convenient whipping boy for all that’s wrong with the golf equipment industry.
Is King blameless? No, But he’s not the man on the grassy knoll as many in the golf industry want you (and themselves) to believe. The golf industry’s problems go deeper than just equipment sales. TMaG, by the way, is on its second CEO since King left in June 2014.
King told Roberts he believes that adidas Group’s decision to sell TaylorMade was “because the company has realized that we should be focusing on the biggest growth opportunities. And the biggest growth opportunities are in running, training, basketball. And we have a lot of runway in those. As opposed to being in something that is harder to focus on.”
That’s a bit of the expected company line, but it’s also the truth. It’s a reason, too, why adidas Group has not yet found a buyer/buyers for Adams Golf and Ashworth, and a reason why it likely will have trouble selling TaylorMade for a price it wants.
As it currently stands, TaylorMade is a company in transition operating in a golf equipment industry that is consolidating (to put in kindly) and struggling (to be more harsh but probably more accurate). Is it a viable business? Yes. But it will need the kind of leadership and vision it had under King and Sean Toulon, especially on those early years, to regain its lost luster.
As an aside, you have to wonder if the Q1 struggles of Callaway and TaylorMade will impact the long-awaited IPO of the Acushnet Company. Rumors have flown that the IPO for the parent of Titleist and FootJoy could come this summer, but watching TMaG and Callaway struggle could have investors reconsidering Acushnet.