The Big One: Universal Athletic Acquired By Trivest Partners

In what had been rumored for more than a year and was one of the team industry’s worst-kept secrets, Universal Athletic, the largest remaining independent team dealer in America, this week was acquired by ASB Sports, an affiliate of Trivest Partners, a private investment firm based in Miami that focuses on partnering with founder/family-owned businesses in the United States and Canada.

Universal Athletic joins other previously independent dealers, including Barcelona  Sporting Goods, Athletic Supply, Cardinal’s Sports Center and Team Sports, Inc., in the ASB Sports stable.

In an industry that is getting used to team dealers being acquired by larger companies – notably BSN Sports and now Trivest – this is a major, major move because Universal, founded in 1971 and based in Bozeman, MT, has more than 50 sales professionals covering 20 states, which made it the largest remaining independent team dealer until this week.

In addition to its team sports business, Universal Athletic operates a large retail footprint with 12 stores across six states. Although the retail business will be owned and operated separately from ASB, the two organizations say they will continue to “work together.”

The key executives of Universal Athletic will join ASB’s management team.

Also in a significant part of the deal, Universal, as has been done with other ASB Sports acquisitions, will remain as a member of the Sports Inc. buying group.

"Partnering with ASB’s stable of the very best team dealers in America fits perfectly with Universal’s strategy. This group truly values relationships with customers, vendors and employees," says  Universal Athletic president Greg Miller, who is also a member of the National Sporting Goods Association board of directors.

"Retaining our culture and family of employees was critical,” Miller adds. “Together with ASB, Universal Athletic will perpetuate nearly 50 years of service to the people and communities we call home while also allowing Universal to continue building on the relationship with the good people and members of Sports, Inc.”

“The addition of Universal Athletic to ASB Sports expands our reach and gives us the opportunity to deliver our best-in-class service to athletic organizations across the country,” says Scott Molander, CEO of ASB Sports.