Battery-Powered Toothbrush Lagged Behind Gillette's Oral-B

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NEW YORK ( -- Church & Dwight Co. said today it's buying Procter & Gamble Co.'s SpinBrush toothbrush business for $75 million in cash and an additional performance-based payment of up to $30 million -- a small fraction of the $475 million P&G paid for the business it acquired in 2000.

The transaction doesn't include use of the Crest brand name. Church & Dwight currently markets toothpaste and some other oral-care products under the Arm & Hammer, Mentadent, Close Up, Aim and Pepsodent brands. Of those, only Mentadent has an established toothbrush business. Church & Dwight did not comment on which brand name it would market SpinBrush under.

Was once category leader
SpinBrush jumped out to leadership in the battery-powered toothbrush segment in 2001 after P&G acquired it from entrepreneurial startup company Dr. John's and applied the Crest brand name, along with additional product improvements in 2002. To cap what appeared to be an extensive upside to performance-based payments owed to the brand's inventors and original owners, P&G agreed to pay them a total of $475 million in 2002.

But Spinbrush has fallen on hard times in the past two years, as Gillette's Oral-B, a late starter in the battery-brush business, successfully played catch up with its own CrossAction Power line. Then P&G recalled its higher-end SpinBrush Pro brushes in March, which amounted to about half the brand's U.S. sales. The problem, ironically, stemmed from the brushes' performance with baking soda toothpastes, long the forte of Church & Dwight's Arm & Hammer.

$110 million in sales
Sales of SpinBrush totaled $110 million in the P&G fiscal year ended June 30, 80% from North America, Church & Dwight said. Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, handled the brand for P&G.

In a statement, Church & Dwight CEO James Craigie said P&G is in the process of launching products to replace SpinBrush Pro, adding, "We believe that the current product line is well-positioned for growth as manual toothbrush users convert to power brushing."

P&G is selling SpinBrush as part of its agreement with the European Union to pave the way for its pending $57 billion acquisition of Gillette. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is still reviewing the deal and may require additional divestitures according to anti-trust attorneys and others familiar with the matter, including the Oral-B Rembrandt whitening business, Glide dental floss and Right Guard deodorant.

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