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United States Playing Card Company Ownership History, Briefly

Posted by Reid Carlberg on

The United States Playing Card Company has been around for a long time and has a lot of history, most of which you can read elsewhere, but there are a couple of footnotes I find curious and interesting about its ownership.

I enjoy decks that point out that USPCC is a subsidiary of the Jarden Corporation, which had purchased it in 2004. For the life of me, I can't figure out why Jarden, a spinoff of Ball Corporation originally focused on the canning supplies business, would buy a playing card manufacturing company.  But I have a theory.

In a New York Times article about the acquisition at the time, CEO of Jarden Martin E Franklin (39 years old at that time!) calls USPCC a high cash flow company that dominates it's market. The article also points out that USPCC was once owned by his father, Roland Franklin, and I can't help wonder if there isn't a father-son thing going on. The Wikipedia articles are definitely worth a peek if you're interested in hostile takeovers and other interesting bits of business history. The strategy apparently worked as younger Franklin is now a knight.

Jarden was bought by Newell Rubbermaid for $13.2b in December, 2015,  Fast forward a few years. Cartamundi bought USPCC for $220M in 2019, which is noteworthy as Jarden had paid $240M (or $232M) in 2004. Adjusted for inflation that's a drop in value of almost $80M. WOW! I'm guessing the drop in value can be attributed to the large increase in quality manufacturers of playing cards around the world, but that's a guess.  A great buy for Cartamundi, that's for sure.

Abundant cash flow attracts all kinds! Here's a much more detailed and amazing history of USPCC that's worth a look. Also the United Cardists post is great.

The Jarden purchase inspired a question: who did they buy it from? They bought it from local private investors who had paid $140m for it in 1994, according to a note in the 11/23/94 edition of the New York Times (D4). Inflation adjusted, that’s $178m in 2004 dollars, which means an ROI to the original investors of about $54m or roughly 30% over 10 years. What this equation misses is any cash the business generated during that time.

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