|Smith & Wesson, the legendary gun maker whose sales plummeted after it pledged to install safety devices, has been sold by its British owner for just $15 million to Sat-T-Hammer Corp., a tiny start-up in Arizona that makes trigger locks.
Saf-T-Hammer of Scottsdale, Arizona, announced the agreement Monday with Tomkins PLC, which has owned Springfield-based Smith & Wesson since 1987.
Under the agreement, Saf-T-Hammer assumes liability for the numerous lawsuits filed against Smith & Wesson over gun deaths.
"That is reflected in the price," said Michael Blogg, an analyst at the London brokerage Charterhouse Securities. Tomkins paid $112.5 million for privately held Smith & Wesson 14 years ago.
Mitchell Saltz, Saf-T-Hammer founder and chief executive, said the entire $15 million purchase is being funded by a private investor. The investor will be identified when the company files paperwork with the Security and Exchange Commission.
Smith & Wesson is the nation's oldest and was once its largest handgun maker.
Saf-T-Hammer was founded in 1991 and has just five employees, Saltz said.
The trigger locks, cables and lock boxes that Saf-T-Hammer makes will be incorporated into Smith & Wesson's product line, Saltz said.
Last year, in an attempt to extricate itself from liability suits brought by 32 cities and other governments, Smith & Wesson signed an agreement with the Clinton administration to install safety locks on all its guns and adopt other safety features and marketing changes.
Gun rights supporters accused Smith & Wesson of selling out. Some vowed to boycott the company; Smith & Wesson's sales were cut roughly in half.
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