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Baseball card maker still at center of a fight

The fate of Topps Co., a New York City firm, could be decided at a special meeting of shareholders tomorrow. The fate of Topps Co., a New York City firm, could be decided at a special meeting of shareholders tomorrow. (CHITOSE SUZUKI/ASSOCIATED PRESS/FILE 2007)

NEW YORK - Baseball cards, the stuff of sports idols and childhood memories, sure are creating a lot of hostility lately.

Ever since the original baseball card maker, Topps Co., said in March that it had accepted a private equity takeover offer, executives have been forced to defend the proposed sale, with accusations of bad judgment and lawsuit threats flying.

Tornante Co., an investment firm controlled by former Disney chief executive Michael Eisner, and Madison Dearborn Partners agreed to buy New York-based Topps for $385.4 million. The offer of $9.75 per share represented a 9.4 percent premium over the stock price at the time.

Critics say the price is too low and the sale process was unfair. Hedge fund Crescendo Partners, which holds a seat on the Topps board, called for the resignation of the entire board and asked shareholders to vote down the offer.

To complicate matters, Upper Deck, Topps' only baseball card rival, launched a hostile bid of $10.75 per share on May 24. The offer was withdrawn Aug. 21.

Both sides say they may sue. Topps says Upper Deck was just fishing for confidential information; Upper Deck says Topps withheld data it needed to decide whether to proceed.

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