Adidas Group Sells Rockport to Berkshire Partners and New Balance Holding

Adidas Sells Rockport To New Balance
Rockport fall '15 pump
John Aquino

The Rockport Company, Canton, Mass., has a new owner.

Berkshire Partners LLC, a Boston-based investment firm, along with other investors including New Balance Holding, have agreed to acquire the iconic comfort brand from its owner the Adidas Group.

Adidas announced as early as last May that it was considering offers for the business. According to a report today in WWD, the mostly cash deal is estimated at $280 million.

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“Our focus is clearly on sport and operating a brand portfolio with a clear agenda to unleash potential of athletes and inspire consumers to live active lives,” said Herbert Hainer, CEO of Adidas, citing Adidas, Reebok, TaylorMade and Reebok-CCM Hockey as its core brands.

As part of the deal, Drydock Footwear LLC, a New Balance affiliate and owner of brands including Cobb Hill, Aravon and Dunham, will join The Rockport Company to form The Rockport Group. It will remain based in its Boston headquarters, and will be a new stand-alone company offering high quality dress and casual footwear globally across its four brands.

The move is likely to give Rockport a much-needed boost. The brand has been wavering over the past several years, as it worked to balance the worlds of fashion and comfort.

Key to Rockport’s repositioning will likely be Bob Infantino, president of Drydock Footwear Group, who now assumes the title of chief executive of the Rockport Group. Few know the comfort category better. Prior to joining Drydock, Infantino served two decades at The Clarks Cos. N.A. Since the industry veteran has a solid track record in the comfort arena, new retail doors should also open for Rockport.

In an interview in FN in February 2014, Infantino commented on the comfort industry and the opportunities in attracting a younger audience, which has been an ongoing initiative for Rockport. “The twenty-somethings want high fashion: high heels and platforms, he said. “When they’re dressing up, they’re going to wear those kinds of shoes. [However], a lot of them are wearing Cobb Hill because we’re giving them comfort as well as [trends] such as combat looks and materials that are exciting to them. We’re putting comfort technologies into wedges and [even] 3-inch heels. But I don’t see young women giving up their fashion heels.”