Production of Wham-O Inc.'s iconic Frisbee flying plastic disc is skimming back across the Pacific Ocean.
The Emeryville, Calif.-based toymaker said Jan. 6 that 50 percent of future Frisbee production will be returned to the U.S. from China by the end of the month.
In a news release, the company said Manufacturing Marvel America, a division of Manufacturing Marvel Group that has plants in California and Michigan, will injection mold the discs, which are made from a proprietary plastic blend.
Wham-O CEO Kyle Aguilar said in the release that the move is to stimulate the local job market. According to the release, Wham-O began producing one of its PoolZone products last August in Michigan. In a Jan. 12 e-mail, spokeswoman Jen Derevensky said Hula Hoops, another Wham-O standby, will be made in the U.S. by March.
Glenn Dresser, Manufacturing Marvel's accounts director, said by phone that the privately owned firm which has offices in Los Angeles, Hong Kong, and Aguascalientes, Mexico has had a relationship with Wham-O for about two years, manufacturing toys including the Frisbee, Slip 'n Slide and Hula Hoop at plants in China and Mexico.
He would not disclose the specific locations of those plants, or of the new facilities in California and Michigan that will mold Frisbees.
We're certainly excited, Dresser said of the impending move of half of Frisbee production to the U.S. It's a great product for us, and we're extremely proud of our ability to bring [Frisbee production] back to North America.
He estimated that Manufacturing Marvel made 300,000 Frisbees in China during the December-January period.
Dresser said Manufacturing Marvel, which makes toys as well as promotional items for several large U.S.-based firms, will have 4,000-6,000 employees working at nine plants globally in blow, injection and rotational molding, depending on seasonal production. He would not give details about the company's machinery, but said all tooling is made in-house.
Wham-O, founded in 1948, has created some of the world's most recognized toys. But it's unclear who's calling the shots for Wham-O's future.
In 2008, Wham-O was in line to be sold by Cornerstone Overseas Investments of Hong Kong, to struggling Hong Kong toymaker Grand Toys International Ltd., in a deal worth $35 million.
It was to have been a family affair: Cornerstone and Grand were owned by the husband-and-wife team of Raylin and Jeff Hsieh, who maintain residences in Hong Kong and San Francisco. But according to industry sources, the deal fell through, with Grand selling off its assets.
Wham-O officials did not respond by deadline to requests for information about recent ownership changes.
Mojde Esfandiari, Wham-O's former CEO, in October sued the company for alleged breach of contract. Among other allegations, Esfandiari, who was let go by the firm in July, said in court filings that Jeff Hsieh in mid-2009 sold Wham-O to an investment group consisting of Aguilar and several others.
In a Jan. 13 phone call, Stephen Chazen, the Encino, Calif., lawyer who represented Wham-O in the matter, said Jan. 13 that the lawsuit had been settled. He declined to comment further.
Lawyers for Esfandiari did not return calls by press time.
Copyright 2010 Crain Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.