Donnay (sports)

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This article is about the sporting goods company. For the French district, see Donnay (commune).
Donnaylogo.jpg

Donnay Sports is a sporting goods brand owned by the British retailer Sports Direct International. The company was founded in 1913 by Emile Donnay and was based in Couvin, Belgium. It began to manufacture wooden tennis rackets in 1934, and by the 1970s was the largest manufacturer of tennis rackets in the world. However, the company failed to adapt to the new market for graphite rackets, and went into administration in 1988. After a succession of owners, the brand was eventually sold to Sports Direct, who continue to license the use of the brand worldwide.

Donnay rackets were used professionally in Europe by Björn Borg from 1975 until his retirement in 1983. Other professionals included Andre Agassi, Rod Laver and Greg Rusedski.

History[edit]

The company was founded in 1913 by Emile Donnay (1885 - 1972) as a wooden tool handle manufacturing co-operative with six employees.[1] Emile Donnay had little education and a modest background.[2] The company began to diversify into other wooden products, including a bow for archers, which continues to be reflected in the Donnay bow-shaped logo.[3] In 1924 Donnay built premises in Couvin.[4] The company manufactured its first tennis rackets in 1934.[5]

Björn Borg using a Donnay racket in the final of the 1979 ABN Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam

By 1969 Donnay was the world's largest manufacturer of tennis rackets. In 1973, the company struggled after Wilson switched production of its tennis rackets from Donnay to a factory in Taiwan.[6] Donnay had produced rackets for Wilson for 20 years, and by the 1970s was reportedly shipping 1.3 million of its annual production run of 2 million rackets to Wilson for distribution in the US.[6]

In 1981, its peak year, Donnay produced 1.8 million rackets, almost all made from ash.[7] The company failed to adapt to the changing market for the new lightweight "graphite" rackets.[6] The company produced only 3,000 graphite rackets in 1980, instead concentrating on wood and aluminium rackets.[6] The company continued to manufacture wooden rackets until 1984, by which time they were obsolete.[8]

Buoyed by the success of its sponsor, Björn Borg, the company employed 600 people and manufactured around 1.5 million tennis rackets a year.[1] In 1981 Donnay reported a turnover of 2.1 billion Belgian francs. Donnay's fortunes began to fade when Borg retired in 1983.[6] Its success had been too closely aligned with Borg's success, and the company lost money for four years before entering administration in 1988 after amassing debts of $35 million.[6][9] The company had apparently lacked the negotiation skills to attract another player of Borg's standing as a sponsor.[1]

The Donnay family still controlled 55 percent of the company when it went bankrupt in 1988.[1] The Walloon and Belgian governments held the remaining shares.[1] The company was acquired by a group of investors, led by Bernard Tapie with a 51 percent stake, the Walloon government with 29 percent and Albert Frere with 20 percent.[9] In 1991 Tapie sold his 58 percent stake in the company to the Walloon government for $16.2 million in order to finance the acquisition of Adidas shares.[10] The government sold the factory to an Italian sports equipment manufacturer, Carbon Valley, and retained the brand rights.[10] In December 1992 the Walloon government took ownership of the company in order to prevent it from entering administration again.[11]

In 1996 Sports Direct acquired the worldwide rights to the Donnay brand from the Walloon government for $3.9 million.[12] At the time of the acquisition, production was based in Portugal, while 23 people remained employed at a distribution centre in Couvin.[12] Sports Direct sell Donnay products as an in house brand, and licence production of Donnay branded products overseas.[13]

Sponsorships[edit]

Initially, Donnay sponsored Belgian tennis players, and due to the amateur nature of the sport at the time, was only allowed to provide rackets and balls, and a small fee.[3]

Its first foreign sponsorship was with the French tennis player Yvon Petra.[3]

Rod Laver, Margaret Court and Cliff Drysdale all played with Donnay rackets.[4]

Donnay sponsored Björn Borg from 1975 to 1983, providing his racket.[1][14] When Borg renewed the contract in 1979, it was worth $600,000 a year, plus royalties from Borg branded Donnay rackets.[15]

Andre Agassi was signed to the Donnay brand between 1989 and 1992 for around $1 million a year.[16] Greg Rusedski also used a Donnay racket.[17]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Casert, Raf (August 11, 1988). "Racket Company Faces Bankruptcy After 'Borg Effect' Fizzles". The Associated Press. 
  2. ^ L’info sur lavenir.net – L’actu 24h/24, 7 jours sur 7 - Page de redirection
  3. ^ a b c Exclusif: quelques bonnes feuilles du livre “Donnay, la Légende” | amortie et lob
  4. ^ a b http://www.donnay.nu/history.pdf
  5. ^ Donnay, la légende: en vente uniquement sur pro-tennis.be | Pro-tennis.be
  6. ^ a b c d e f Michael White (2009). A Short Course in International Marketing Blunders: Mistakes Made by Companies that Should Have Known Better. World Trade Press. p. 151. ISBN 978-1-60780-008-8. 
  7. ^ Donnay, la légende d’une marque - lavenir.net
  8. ^ Si Donnay m’était conté…. Montrez votre intérêt et un livre paraîtra | amortie et lob
  9. ^ a b Montgomery, Paul (22 September 1988). "A Former Singer Becomes Largest Owner of Donnay". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 January 2014. 
  10. ^ a b Reuters (28 June 1991). "Tapie Is Selling Stake in Donnay". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 January 2014. 
  11. ^ European Report December 12, 1992 STATE AID: GREEN LIGHT FOR SERIES OF GRANTS FROM SPORTS TO SHIPBUILDING
  12. ^ a b "Donnay, Famous for its Wooden Rackets, Sold To British Company". Associated Press International. 3 December 1996. 
  13. ^ Sports World International sales climb 45pc and knock JJB off top spot - Telegraph
  14. ^ tennis.com - Donnay Offers Money-Back Guarantee During French
  15. ^ Borg et Agassi à l’origine du mythe - DH.be
  16. ^ McCabe, Nora (18 March 1989). "Hetherington loses a doubles partner". Globe and Mail (Canada). 
  17. ^ L’info sur lavenir.net – L’actu 24h/24, 7 jours sur 7 - Page de redirection

Further reading[edit]

  • Michel Guilluy and Louis Maraite: Donnay, la légende d'une marque de tennis 1913 - 2013 (2013)

External links[edit]