Playtex: Why No One Is Adopting This Baby

Its huge debt and falling profits seem to be scaring off buyers

From Woolite to Mr. Bubble to Playtex tampons, little Playtex Products Inc. boasts some mighty brand muscle. That's no accident: Chief Executive Michael R. Gallagher, a Procter & Gamble and Clorox alum, has been spreading brand religion at the Westport (Conn.) company ever since he landed there in June, 1995. He spearheaded acquisitions that stocked Playtex with new products and locked in the No. 1 or 2 positions in each of its three main businesses: tampons, suntan lotion, and infant care. The goal--as some of Playtex' big private-equity investors saw it--was simple: Turn Playtex into an appetizing purchase for an expansion-minded outfit such as Kimberly-Clark or Johnson & Johnson.

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