PORTLAND, Maine (AP) – Sebago Inc., maker of docksider casual shoes and dress shoes, is being sold to a Michigan company that makes Hush Puppies and Merrell Boots.

Wolverine World Wide, which announced the acquisition on Thursday, said Sebago provides a premium brand to complement its other lines.

“Sebago is a premium, upmarket product and right now Wolverine doesn’t have that,” said Tim Hanson, a spokesman for Wolverine. “It’s an all-American classic … nautical and classic handsewn footwear.”

The price of the acquisition was not announced. Wolverine is a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange, but Sebago is privately held. Wolverine paid cash for the company.

Sebago owner Dan Wellehan, whose father founded Sebago Inc. in Westbrook after World War II, will assist with the transition and serve as a senior adviser and brand ambassador, Hanson said.

“I have a great deal of mixed emotions,” Wellehan said Thursday. “There’s a great sense of sadness. Here’s a business my dad had started and has been in our family since 1946.”

But he also believes Wolverine is a good company with similar values and that the deal could lead to growth opportunities for Sebago.

For now, there are no plans for changes at Sebago, which has 230 Maine employees in Westbrook, Gorham and Bridgton, along with about 200 employees in the Dominican Republic.

“For the short term, it’s going to be status quo. In the long term, Wolverine is certainly going to look at the capabilities Westbrook has and what Wolverine has available to it,” Hanson said.

The sale of Sebago is the latest in a shakeup of Maine’s shoe industry that has seen most major manufactures move overseas.

G.H. Bass and Cole Haan shut down their Maine plants in 1998 and 1999, and the trend has since caught up with Saucony, Eastland and Dexter.

Ken Ribas, who has watched Sebago’s Bridgton work force shrink from 300 when he started 10 years ago to about 26 now, said he was hopeful that the size of Wolverine’s operation would increase Sebago’s chances of prospering in the future.

“In my mind, it looks better for the future for Sebago than it did staying with Sebago,” he said. “Mr. Wellehan has done everything he can and he has done everything he could to keep us working.”

AP-ES-07-25-03 0826EDT



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