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Wolverine Worldwide Sells Champion Footwear Trademarks

Wolverine World Wide Inc., which operates a large portfolio of footwear and lifestyle brands, announced Thursday that Keds LLC, its wholly owned subsidiary, has sold the Champion trademarks for footwear in the United States and Canada to its longtime licensee, Hanesbrands Inc., for $90 million in cash.

Under the agreement, Wolverine Worldwide retains a perpetual license to continue using the Champion trademark on certain footwear, including the Keds Champion sneaker that has been a mainstay of its Keds brand for decades. The transaction also successfully resolves outstanding litigation between the parties.

In September, Keds moved to end its Champion footwear license agreement with Hanesbrands amid a legal battle that began in 2020. Keds and Champion signed their first licensing agreement 35 years ago. The original framework gave Hanes a perpetual license to use the Champion mark for “high performance athletic shoes” in the United States and Canada, according to Keds. A later amendment authorized it to sublicense the right to sell “non-athletic, casual” footwear.

Several lawsuits between the two companies ensued, with the sale of the license now resolving the conflict.

“This transaction represents a unique opportunity to simplify our business model, while at the same time securing a significant amount of cash at a meaningful multiple of future expected royalty streams,” said Brendan Hoffman, Wolverine Worldwide president and CEO. “Also, by retaining a perpetual license, our Keds brand will continue to market and sell the iconic Keds Champion sneaker that its consumers have worn and loved for generations.”

In the first quarter ended April 2, Hanesbrands said its Champion sportswear brand accelerated on a two-year basis, domestically and internationally, with sales “meaningfully above pre-pandemic levels.”

Global Champion brand sales increased 6 percent, with a 10 percent gain internationally and 2 percent in the U.S. Strong consumer demand for the Champion brand continued in the first quarter, but product supply challenges to the U.S. market did not improve as expected in the period, resulting in approximately $40 million of in-hand orders in the U.S. that were unfulfilled.

Among the company’s iconic brands are Hanes, a leading basic apparel brand in the U.S., and Champion, along with Alternative and Gear for Sports.

Wolverine’s brand portfolio includes Merrell, Saucony, Sweaty Betty, Sperry, Hush Puppies, Wolverine, Keds, Chaco, Bates, HYTEST and Stride Rite. Wolverine Worldwide is also the global footwear licensee of the Cat and Harley-Davidson brands.