On March 6, 2007, Topps (TOPP) announced it agreed to be acquired for $9.75 per share in cash in a transaction valued at $385.4 million. The maker of trading cards and confections (Ring Pop, Push Pop, Bazooka gum, etc.) will be acquired by the Tornante Company and Madison Dearborn Partners. The Tornante Company was founded in 2005 by Michael Eisner – it is privately held.

Topps was founded in 1938. Although it was always a chewing gum company, Topps didn’t start selling the products it would become best known for until after the war. Following World War II, the company developed Bazooka Bubble Gum. In 1951, Topps added baseball cards.

The company had annual sales of $298.84 million in fiscal 2006. Topps derives roughly half of its total revenue from each of its two business segments – 49.1% from confections and 50.9% from entertainment.

Total sales have been stagnant for some time now. Sales actually declined slightly during 2005 and 2006. Although sales have grown over the last twelve months (to over $300 million), the company is still far short of the $439.3 million in net sales it registered six years ago.

That recent high water mark was set during the height of the Pokemon craze in 2000 – when those little Japanese monsters brought in $179.6 million (or 40.88%) of Topps’ $439.3 million in total sales. In a single year Pokemon sales plummeted by $155.5 million or 86.58%.

Here it seems right to add (with apologies to Matthew) that all those who live by the fad die by the fad.

As you might expect, Topps had dealings with Disney (DIS) during Eisner’s reign. Whether this previous experience played any part in Eisner’s decision to invest is anybody’s guess. In the press release announcing the deal, Eisner said only this:

“Topps is a wonderful company with a powerful brand portfolio and a rich history. Topps’ management team and employees are the best in the business, and we look forward to working with all of them to grow the company in new and exciting ways.”

According to the press release, Lehman Brothers served as sole financial advisor to Topps. In February of 2005, the board of Topps “authorized the company to pursue, with the assistance of Lehman Brothers, a sale of the candy business, believing such a step might provide value for the stockholders, in light of recent industry transactions at attractive multiples.”

It seems Lehman did one better.