DELRAY BEACH, FLA. - Empire of Carolina Inc. announced May 10 that it was the highest bidder for SLM International Inc.'s Buddy L toy subsidiary, which is operating under bankruptcy court protection. Empire's offer is now subject to the approval of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware. A hearing on the bid is scheduled for May 17. Empire, based in Delray Beach, said creditors and banks of Buddy L supported the bid, which consists of cash, stock and future earnings valued at about $15 million. SLM is based in New York.
``We expect that the Buddy L line will be integrated into our operations over the next year,'' said Steven Geller, chairman and chief executive officer of Empire of Carolina.
``We see incredible synergies between the Buddy L electric ride-ons and our own Big-Wheel line of ride-on products, as well as the internationally recognized Buddy L vehicles. Additionally, both Empire and Buddy L have synergistic lines of outdoor summer plastic toys. Through these and other operating synergies, we expect the combined businesses to be more profitable.''
Empire of Carolina designs, develops, makes and markets a range of basic plastic children's toys. Its Holiday Products Division produces and markets decorative seasonal items including Christmas, Halloween and Easter illuminated products. The firm's full line of basic toys includes Grand Champion collectible horse figures, the MR-1 line of race car sets and television-advertised and licensed products sold under the Mighty Morphin Power Ranger name.
Empire and SLM had signed a letter of intent for the deal Jan. 23, and on March 2 Buddy L filed a voluntary petition for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code ``to facilitate the reorganization and eventual sale of the toy business, by reducing the liabilities of this subsidiary,'' according to the firm.
SLM bought Buddy L. Corp. in 1990.