Sara Lee Retains Champion Products

Friday, February 16th 2001, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — Sara Lee Corp. has decided to retain and restructure its Champion Products business in the United States after earlier putting the athletic apparel unit up for sale.

``As we talked with potential buyers, it became clear that the Champion property was a more valuable asset within our organization — especially the core, branded business where we hold a competitive advantage,'' Gerald Evans, the president and chief executive of Sara Lee Activewear, said Thursday.

Sara Lee had put its worldwide Champion operations up for sale last May, and announced in January it expects to sell its Champion Europe operations in the third quarter.

Sara Lee plans to restructure its U.S. business and focus on basic, branded apparel lines and selected, exclusive licenses. Julie Ketay, a Sara Lee spokeswoman in Chicago, said Champion USA had $284 million in sales in fiscal year 2000.

It plans to sell the Champion college-bookstore business, which sells items such as college sweatshirts, to Gear for Sports Inc. Evans said that business is not a good fit, given the constant changes in graphics and smaller orders.

Champion makes branded activewear and licensed apparel in partnership with the NBA, the NFL, XFL and colleges. The division also makes women's athletic apparel.

In midday trading Friday on the New York Stock Exchange, Sara Lee shares were up 40 cents at $21.05.


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