Judge Approves Astro Turf Sale

Stech, Katy (2016, August 15) Judge Approves $16 Million Astro Turf Sale. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://www.wsj.com/

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Judge Approves $16 Million AstroTurf Sale

Competitor APT Advanced Polymer Technology cleared to take over AstroTurf’s Georgia-based marketing operations

A bankruptcy judge has cleared a competitor of AstroTurf LLC to take over its Georgia-based marketing operations, which struggled after the company lost a $30 million patent dispute last year.

With his signature, Judge Paul Bonapfel approved the roughly $16.1 million sale agreement between AstroTurf and an affiliate of APT Advanced Polymer Technology Corp., a competitor based outside of Pittsburgh.

AstroTurf lawyers proposed to sell the Dalton, Ga., company, which markets and sells artificial turf products to university athletic departments and sports facilities, after putting its operations into chapter 11 protection on June 28.

The filing halted its legal battle with another competitor, FieldTurf USA Inc. FieldTurf officials accused AstroTurf of infringing on its patent for artificial turf products in a 2010 federal lawsuit. In October, a jury awarded $30 million in damages to FieldTurf.

“The patent litigation and adverse publicity regarding the verdict have caused substantial disruption to the business,” AstroTurf lawyers said in earlier documents filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Rome, Ga. “FieldTurf and [AstroTurf] compete almost daily for customers and new business, and the [company] believes that FieldTurf is using the patent litigation to deter potential customers from entering into contracts…for the purchase and installation of synthetic turf surfaces.”

The court-approved sale is part of a broader, $92.5 million deal that enables APT Advanced Polymer Technology to take over three AstroTurf-related businesses that haven’t filed for bankruptcy protection. That includes its research and development division and Synthetic Turf Resources, which manufactures the athletic turf.

The four businesses are owned by Textile Management Associates Inc., which holds a majority stake.

In court papers, AstroTurf called itself a “leading innovator” in the industry for synthetic turf, which was invented in 1964. Founded in 2003, AstroTurf became popular through sponsorship agreements it made with athletic conferences and sports organizations, enabling the company to pay an annual fee in exchange for the exposure.

AstroTurf officials said it relies on a network of sales people and distributors who negotiate the exclusive rights to sell AstroTurf products in a geographic area. AstroTurf itself employed 54 people at the time of the filing.

*The full article is available at http://www.wsj.com/articles/judge-approves-16-million-astroturf-sale-1471286131