Wham-O has been sold…again. For the third time in twelve years, Wham-O’s ownership has changed. This time, the current owners have sold to an overseas company – Cornerstone Overseas Investments Ltd., which is based out of Hong Kong. It is the first time Wham-O has been owned by a non-American firm.
The plan, according to comments by Cornerstone CEO Jeff Hsieh and Wham-O President Mojde Esfandiari, is to focus on international growth.
What does this mean for freestyle?
It’s been clear for some time that the growth opportunities for brands like Frisbee lie outside U.S. borders. That was one of my observations while I was with Wham-O, and of course the explosion of freestyle since 2003 is proof that there is a huge market for flying disc fun.
If Wham-O really focuses on international development, and if they don’t cheapen their product through substandard Chinese manufacturing or cheapen the Frisbee brand by reverting to a toy image, then the increased distribution could be great. If more people know about freestyle, more people can participate.
Wham-O has not been an enthusiastic supporter of elite freestyle events for a while. Even their renewed participation in the FPA Worlds in recent years has been a baby step. So, basically there is no way to go but up. They are not enthusiastic supporters of freestyle events now, so they will either stay that way or partner more aggressively with us. If they happen to drop the tiny support they have given recently, it does not really do damage.
Do I welcome Wham-O’s new Hong Kong overlords? If they recognize freestyle’s value as a lifetime sport, a community builder and an exciting spectator event, then I’ll welcome them with open arms. If they continue Wham-O’s recent tradition of ambivalence toward what we do, then my opinion of them would be…different.
It’s notable that Wham-O is still so synonymous with Frisbee that CNN/Money headlined their story Frisbee Maker Passed To New Owner. Maybe CNN should have bought Wham-O…but then all our spins would have had to be Republican.