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The VeloBase History of Univega
Univega is a brand of bicycles, created during the bike boom of the 1970s by Ben Lawee (1926–2002) — who founded Lawee Inc. to design, specify and import bicycles manufactured initially in Italy by Italvega and subsequently in Japan by Miyata.

Prior to creating the Univega brand, Lawee had been the importer of Motobécane bicycles in the U.S. and had created the Italvega and Bertoni bicycle brands manufactured in Italy.

Lawee marketed the Univega brand using the taglines "Discover the Difference" and "Ride it your way" and began marketing their Alpina series of mountain bikes in the early 1980s.

Univega competed in the U.S. with domestic and European bicycle manufacturers including Schwinn, Raleigh, Peugeot and Motobecane — as well as other Japanese manufacturers including Miyata, Fuji, Bridgestone, Panasonic, Nishiki, Lotus and Centurion. Japanese manufacturered bikes succeeded in the U.S. market until currency fluctuations in the late 1980s made them less competitive, leading companies to source bicycles from Taiwan.

In 1996, Univega along with Nishiki brand was absorbed by Raleigh's parent company Derby International in 1997.

Ben Lawee, who was born in Baghdad, Iraq and emigrated to the U.S. at age 19, attended business school at Columbia University, and became a sales representative for George Joannou Cycle Co. of New Jersey and Miami, Florida. He later purchased Jones Bicycles in 1959 — growing a single store into a multi-store chain. He sold the retail chain in 1965 and began importing Bianchi and Legnano bikes, as well as becoming the national distributor for Raleigh and Motobecane — later founding and operating Lawee Inc. He sold the Univega brand to Raleigh in 1996 and retired from the bicycle industry. Lawee had two children, David and Monique, with his wife Ariela. He died November 8, 2002.

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