Wolverine World Wide Inc is to set up a new subsidiary to manage the growth of its CAT footwear brand in European markets.

The new company, Wolverine Europe Limited, is based on the on-going operations and assets of the European CAT footwear business, which were purchased from Overland Group Limited of London, England.

Stephen Palmer, founder and owner of the Overland Group Limited, will be a minority shareholder and head up the new venture.

The markets served directly by Wolverine Europe will include Austria, France, Germany, Ireland, The Netherlands, Switzerland and United Kingdom, and it will continue to coordinate and oversee support for other European markets served by independently owned distributors.

Commenting on the acquisition, Bill Brown, president of Wolverine's Performance Footwear Group, said. "Nowhere in the world does CAT footwear have a stronger consumer and retail franchise than in Europe. With nearly 50 per cent of CAT footwear's global volume coming from Europe, it makes sense to invest directly to strengthen our position in that market.

"By combining Wolverine's financial, operational and global marketing strengths with the Overland team's product expertise and in-depth knowledge of the European footwear market, we are creating a powerful organisation that will ensure continued growth of this great footwear brand."

In a related action, Wolverine World Wide announced that it was expanding its owned Merrell operations in the United Kingdom to cover the additional countries of Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, The Netherlands and Spain. A new subsidiary, Merrell Europe BV, has been formed to direct the operations of these additional countries.

Timothy J O'Donovan, president and CEO of Wolverine World Wide, described these actions as part of a strategy to build a stronger base in Europe, which is the largest better-grade footwear market in the world.