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Adams on TaylorMade deal: 'the best of both worlds'

March 19, 2012

When the news came across our desks today at 4 a.m. that TaylorMade was acquiring the long-time independent, self-made success story that is Adams Golf, much of the discussion centered on the bigger company expanding. Little was heard from the company that was being acquired, particularly from the man who founded that company, the man who made the fairway wood a hot commodity two decades ago with an upside down design he scribbled on an airline napkin, the man who in a large way turned the hybrid into a standard piece of equipment by sheer force of will.

Barney Adams, the patriarch of Adams Golf and its current interim CEO, called at 10 this morning Eastern Time, ebullient as ever, with a self-deprecating tone that belies the wisdom of nearly 30 years in the business.

"Just so you know," he barked with a laugh. "I'm calling from California and I've already been up for two-and-a-half hours and I haven't even had a cup of coffee yet, so I'm just warning you if I doze off."

Barney Adams? Not bloody likely. On a day when he agreed in terms to sell the company that bears his name and he founded 25 years ago for $70 million, Adams was still full of the entrepreneurial energy and straight-talk outlook that allowed his independent company to rise to be one of the leaders in innovation and sit currently as one of the top-selling iron, hybrid and fairway wood brands in golf.

The acquisition is good news, Adams said.

"I think it's the best of both worlds," he said. "We still get to operate as an independent, entrepreneurial company, but now we have a trove of resources that we've never had before that we can use if it's the right application."

Adams believes his new owners are impressed with their new acquisition, and he doesn't see them changing much of anything, certainly in the short term.

"They look at this as a revenue synergy not a cost synergy, not dismantling it and moving it to California at all," he said. "They think the great advantage is keeping the brand intact and then helping the brand when they can. They like what we do, they like our spirit, our entrepreneurial approach to the game, the innovations that we've come up with, and they want to keep that going.

When Adams Golf announced Jan. 4 it would be "examining strategic alternatives," the rumor mill immediately had the company for sale. Even with today's announcement that TaylorMade was acquiring the Plano, Texas-based company, Adams knew there would be talk of TaylorMade simply buying a rival company to shut it down.  He doesn't get it.

"There are some people I strongly suspect who are going to think that way, but that has not been indicated at all," he said. "It's been broached only from the standpoint of making it clear that it is exactly not what they intend to do.

"We have a very good brand presence in the marketplace. Why wouldn't they want to keep it going? It ain't broke, don't fix it. Maybe you can just help it a little bit."

Adams joked about his age, but he's not willing to admit that it's time to step aside, whether or not that's the reality of today's announcement. In typical Barney Adams fashion he had the ability to sound sanguine and wistful at the same time.

"If you read the fine print of the press release, it says that I'm 73 years old, and when I get up in the morning, my back hurts and I have to get up in sections, and my tee shots have gotten 25 yards shorter, that's the reality. It's time, but in my heart will it ever be time? Probably not. But what the hell? Seriously, that's reality.

"What I've said is I will make myself available to do whatever I can to keep Adams going in the spirit it has in the past," he said. "That can range from some degree of being available to 'Thank you very much, we forgot to tell you that you're 73 years old, and don't call us, we'll call you.'

"Right now, my heart's with the Adams employees and making this a smooth transition, and that's what I'm working on."

He reiterated that he didn't think there would be dramatic changes at the company he founded in 1987, the one he wrote a book about in 2008 and the one that in large part was central to his winning the PGA of America's most significant industry lifetime achievement honor, the Ernie Sabayrac Award, in 2010. He thinks and trusts that today is a good day for the future of his company and its new bosses.

"Speaking realistically, who knows what's going to happen? They're a very fine company, very honorable people and this is what they've looked us in the eye and said. That's good enough for me. I have a lot of respect for TaylorMade, always have. Look what they've done. They're very smart people. That's exactly what they've told us.

"They're not going to mess with that. Look what we've done. They just want to help us be better."*

--Mike StachuraFollow me on Twitter @MikeStachura*