Brunswick Bowling & Billiards
Brunswick Bowling & Billiards is the business segment of Brunswick Corporation that historically encompassed the following three divisions:
- Bowling centers (now owned by Bowlmor AMF)
- Bowling equipment and products (now owned by BlueArc Capital Management)
Brunswick announced in July 2014 its intention to leave the bowling business by the end of 2014. As part of the announcement, the company disclosed that it had agreed to sell the bowling center business, which brought in $187 million in revenue in the prior year, to its much larger competitor Bowlmor AMF for $270 million. It also disclosed that it had retained Lazard to find a buyer for its bowling equipment and products business. The company said it was making these changes to focus on its “core” Marine and Fitness businesses, which provided 92% of company net revenues in 2013. The sale of the bowling center division to Bowlmor AMF was completed in September 2014.
Brunswick completed its exit from the bowling business in May 2015 with the sale of the bowling equipment and products division to BlueArc Capital Management, a private investment firm based in Atlanta, GA. BlueArc completed the acquisition with investments from Gladstone Investment Corporation, a publicly traded business development company in McLean, Va., and Capitala Finance Corp., a business development company in Charlotte, N.C.
The billiards division was established in 1845 and is Brunswick Corporation's heritage business. Brunswick Billiards designs and/or markets billiards tables, table tennis tables, air powered table hockey games, and other gaming tables, as well as billiard balls, cues, game room furniture, and related accessories, under the Brunswick and Contender brands. Consumer billiards equipment is predominantly sold in the United States and distributed primarily through dealers.
John Brunswick built his first billiards table in 1845 at his woodworking shop in Cincinnati, Ohio, for a successful Chicago meatpacker. The popularity of billiards grew quickly, and by the late 1860s, the U.S. billiards market was dominated by Brunswick’s firm and two others. In 1873 Brunswick merged with one of his competitors, Julius Balke’s Cincinnati-based Great Western Billiard Manufactory, to form J.M. Brunswick & Balke Company. In 1884, the company merged with the other competitor, New York-based Phelan & Collender, to form the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company. (The company name was changed to Brunswick Corporation in 1960.) The company grew quickly and added new product lines to its business in the 1880s. Brunswick began selling functional and decorative wooden backs for bars. Prohibition prompted a drastic change in the products offered by the company. And while the Depression was a difficult period for Brunswick, World War II brought a great deal of new business. The company's billiard products were popular in the United Service Organizations (USO) centers.
More than 13,000 billiards tables were installed at military bases by 1945. In 1972 Brunswick Billiards began the design and manufacture air hockey tables. In 2008 the company introduced a line of game room furniture.
Brunswick Billiards dabbled in retail at two points in its history. In 1947 the company opened "Cue and Cushion" establishments, family-friendly billiards establishments that include a lounge and soda fountain. In 2003 the company opened its first “Home & Billards Store” in the Chicago area, and went on to open one other store in Boston and two in Denver. All of these establishments were later closed, and the company now sells its products exclusively through dealers.
Before its acquisition by Bowlmor AMF in October 2014, the Brunswick bowling center division was the second largest operator of bowling centers in the United States, with 88 centers in the US and Canada as of December 31, 2013. Bowlmor AMF has said it will operate the division as a stand-alone division and no changes are currently planned. Brunswick centers currently offer bowling and, depending on size and location, may also offer in-house restaurants, taverns, outdoor patios, billiards, video and redemption games, laser tag, pro shops and meeting and party rooms. The Brunswick bowling center brands are:
- Brunswick's - A new, upscale concept featuring plush decor and mood lighting, innovative cuisine as well as traditional "American pub fare," and a higher level of customer service. Three Brunswick's have been opened to date.
- Brunswick Zone XL - Larger family entertainment centers, most of which have been built in the last decade and feature multiple entertainment offerings, representing 15 of the company's centers.
- Brunswick Zone - Mostly traditional bowling centers that have been upgraded to provide a more family-friendly atmosphere, representing 37 of the company's centers.
- Traditional bowling centers acquired over the years and rebranded with the Brunswick name.
- Iconic bowling centers that have always performed well and were not rebranded.
In 1965, facing a decline in business after a period of rapid expansion, many privately owned centers found it difficult to pay the bills, and Brunswick took physical possession of 131 of these centers as payment for bowling equipment. In 1966, still suffering from the decline, Brunswick closed many European bowling centers.
In 2007 the company opened its first Brunswick Zone XL centers, large, smoke-free facilities aimed at families, bowling leagues, parties, corporate meetings and group events, offering bowling, laser tag, bumper cars, video game arcades, Brunswick billiards tables, large screen TVs, and spacious meeting rooms.
During 2013 Brunswick Bowling divested its seven remaining European bowling centers.
Bowling equipment and products
Now owned by BlueArc Capital Management of Atlanta, GA and its investor partners, the former Brunswick bowling equipment and products division designs, manufactures and markets a wide variety of bowling products.
The division's products for bowling centers include capital equipment, such as automatic pinsetters, bowling pins, "house" bowling balls, ball returns, lane surfaces, scoring systems, and bowling center furniture, as well as aftermarket products such as pinsetter parts, lane conditioning machines, and conditioners and cleaners for lane machines. The company's current pinsetter model is in the GS Series but many A Series models remain in active service in bowling centers around the world. Similarly, many centers still use Brunswick AS-80, AS-90, Classic, Frameworx, and Vector scoring systems while the currently-offered system is Vector Plus. Brunswick lane surfaces include the Anvilane and Pro Lane brands.
The division's consumer products include its bowling balls as well as, through licensing arrangements, bowling shoes, bags and accessories. Products are marketed under the Brunswick, DV8, Radical, and other brand names.
Products are manufactured or sourced mainly from facilities located in Michigan and Wisconsin in the United States, as well as in Hungary and Mexico. Bowling products are sold through a direct sales force or distributors in the United States and through distributors in non-U.S. markets.
Brunswick began production of wooden lanes, bowling balls, and bowling pins in the 1880s as taverns began to install bowling lanes. John Brunswick’s son-in-law Moses Bensinger, who was then directing Brunswick’s day-to-day operations, actively promoted bowling as a participatory sport and was instrumental in organizing the American Bowling Congress in 1895.
In 1906 Bensinger opened a large manufacturing plant in Muskegon, Michigan. The plant became the cornerstone of the firm's manufacturing, producing such products as the revolutionary $20 Mineralite (hard rubber) bowling ball, and grew to over one million square feet by the 1940s. During World War II, United Service Organizations (USO) centers and military bases eagerly purchased bowling equipment, leading to more than 3,000 bowling lanes being installed at military bases by 1945.
At the time, Brunswick manufactured “spotting tables” which were manually operated to place bowling pins in their proper places on a lane before a bowling ball was thrown at them. The company had toyed with the idea of an automatic pinsetter since 1911, when inventor Ernest Hedenskoog joined the company. Many of his patents provided the basis for the automatic pinsetter later introduced.
It was not until the American Machine and Foundry Company (AMF) introduced the first fully automatic pinsetter in 1952 that Brunswick scrambled to get its own machine to market. In 1954 Brunswick formed the Brunswick-Murray Pinsetter Corporation with Murray Corporation of America, a manufacturer of components for autos and aircraft. By the time Brunswick’s “Model A” pinsetters were in production in 1955, Brunswick had bought out Murray.
Brunswick's policy of selling pinsetters on credit, suburban expansion, and an aggressive advertising campaign all combined to make bowling centers enormously popular in the late 1950s. By the mid-1960s, however, overexpansion led to a period of decline. Brunswick had begun assembling bowling equipment in Dublin in 1959, but it closed its Italian factory in 1966 and the Dublin facility in 1972. Then, in 1973, it entered into a manufacturing joint venture with Fuji Kikai-Hiroshima. In 2005 Brunswick moved its bowling ball production to Reynosa, Mexico, and in 2006 it closed the Muskegon plant.
In 1967 Brunswick introduced the automatic scorer. In 1984, Brunswick acquired the Schmid Company of Scherzenbach, Switzerland, and with it the rights to manufacture and sell its GS pinsetter. The GS is Brunswick’s current pinsetter series. The mechanical portion of the pinsetter was originally manufactured in the Brunswick plant located in Stockach, Germany. In 1999 the mechanical manufacturing was relocated to Hungary.
Other divisions of Brunswick Corporation
- Brunswick Boat Group - Knoxville, Tennessee
- Life Fitness - Schiller Park, Illinois
- Mercury Marine - Fond du Lac, Wisconsin
- "Brunswick to Sell Retail Bowling Business to Bowlmor AMF". YAHOO Finance Global Newsire. July 18, 2014.
- "Bowlmor AMF Completes Acquisition of Brunswick Corporation's Bowling Center Business". MarketWatch. September 18, 2014.
- "BlueArc Capital Management Acquires Brunswick Bowling Products". Bowlers Journal. May 26, 2015.
- "Brunswick Corporation Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2013". Retrieved July 15, 2014.
- "Brunswick Corporation Audited Financial Statements for the year ended December 31, 2013". Retrieved July 15, 2014.
- "Brunswick Corp.: List of Deals". Lehman Brothers Collection. Baker Library, Harvard Business School. Retrieved July 15, 2014.
- "Brunswick History". Brunswick Corporation. Retrieved July 15, 2014.
- "New Brunswick's Targets Most Promising Consumer". Bowlers Journal International. July 2013.
- "Brunswick Corporation History". Funding Universe. Retrieved July 15, 2014.
- "GS-Series Pinsetter Operation and Service Manual, January 2001, Part number 47-902735-000" (PDF). Brunswick. Retrieved 2014-01-24.