Golfer Greg Norman Duels Mattel for Kids’ Tablet Maker Fuhu

  • Great White Shark affiliate to open bids in bankruptcy auction
  • Fund's $10 million offer tops Mattel's proposal by $500,000

A private-equity firm founded by golfer Greg Norman won court permission to supplant toy giant Mattel Inc. as the lead bidder in a bankruptcy auction for children’s tablet maker Fuhu Inc.

The judge overseeing Fuhu’s case said he will approve rules for an auction this month in which an affiliate of Norman’s fund will make the opening bid of $10 million -- $500,000 more than Mattel had said it would pay when El Segundo, California-based Fuhu filed for bankruptcy in December.

The ruling sets up a potential shootout between an affiliate of the Australian golfer’s Great White Shark Enterprises and El Segundo-based Mattel, maker of Barbie dolls and Hot Wheels cars.

“The two parties who are most interested in the assets are probably already at the table,” U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Sontchi said Tuesday in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware.

Norman, 60, was the first person in professional golf to surpass $10 million in career earnings, according to his website. He captured the British Open Championship in 1986 and 1993 and has 91 wins around the world, including 20 on the PGA Tour.

Fuhu sought creditor protection in December with a plan to sell itself to Mattel unless a higher bid came in. Before the auction even began, Norman’s GWS Fuhu LLC topped Mattel’s opening offer and agreed to lend Fuhu $2 million to pay down certain liens that could have disrupted a sale.

Sontchi approved the loan and said he will sign an order setting the auction rules once final wording is worked out by lawyers.

The case is In re Fuhu Inc., 15-12465, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware (Delaware).

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