NORWOOD, Ohio (AP) _ A management-led group has acquired U.S. Playing Card Co., the maker of the Bicycle and Bee brands, from owner Frontenac Co. for $140 million.

The buyout, which was announced Monday, kept the 127-year-old company from being sold to outside interests for the third time in 12 years. Twenty other parties bid for the company, including New York investment firm Forstmann- Little, Marvel Entertainment Group and toy maker Mattel Inc.

Chicago-based Frontenac, which bought the company for $95 million in 1989, put U.S. Playing Card up for sale in January.

''We wanted U.S. Playing Card to remain a Cincinnati company and under local ownership,'' said Ronald Rule, the company's chief executive officer.

''We want to break the cycle, begun 15 years ago, of having outside investors looking to cash out after only a few years,'' he added. ''We thought that was not fair to our employees and, frankly, not good for the health of the company long term.''

The new majority owners include Rule, vice presidents Robert LeFevre, Charles Zunk and Louis B. Eichhold, and chief financial officer David Sommerkamp. A minority interest is held by 15 other Cincinnati investors.

U.S. Playing Card employs 500 workers in Norwood and 300 elsewhere. The company makes more than 70 million decks of cards a year, with annual sales exceeding $100 million.