Jones Execs Upbeat on Atwood Potential

The Jones Group Inc. is betting big on Brian Atwood.

After teaming up with the designer in 2010 to launch his diffusion line, the company is now taking a majority stake in Atwood’s entire business. The acquisition will further extend Jones’ presence in the luxury footwear arena and give Atwood the resources to significantly expand his namesake label.

The financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but Jones and Atwood plan to form a joint venture, which will own the intellectual property rights of the Brian Atwood brand and existing licenses. (Jones will own a majority of the business, while Atwood will retain an ownership stake.)

The Atwood deal marks Jones’ third major footwear acquisition in the past two years. In 2010, the company snapped up Stuart Weitzman and last year nabbed London-based luxe retailer Kurt Geiger.

“Brian’s a bright young star, and [acquiring his brand] is part of our growth strategy to nurture up-and-coming designers,” Jones Group CEO Wes Card told FN on Monday. “We think Brian can build a much bigger lifestyle group of product around the core shoe business.”

The priority, explained Card, is for Jones to gain a bigger foothold in the higher-end business, with expanded product categories coming from that over time.

“Brian is an apparel designer by trade, so apparel could easily be [one of the next categories to go into],” Card said, noting that Atwood could leverage Jones’ expertise in apparel for that purpose. The CEO added, “We have huge opportunities in Europe with Kurt Geiger, the largest footwear retailer in Europe. Stuart Weitzman has a very large business in Europe, too, and Brian will dovetail right into that nicely.”

Meanwhile, Richard Dickson, president and CEO of branded businesses for Jones Group, said the deal had been some time in the making. “We’ve been dating a long time and it was time to get married,” he quipped.

Atwood, who launched his collection in 2001, said he is looking forward to the expanded relationship.

“The Jones Group is an exceptional partner,” said Atwood. “I am excited to enter into a deeper partnership with Jones, which has both the business acumen and brand expertise that will help me realize my dream of a fully developed Brian Atwood brand. I look forward to the next chapter.”

Atwood’s first New York store is slated to bow on Madison Avenue this fall, said Card. And more retail expansion could be in the works.

Retailers, too, lauded the deal on Monday.

Tracy Margolies, VP and DMM at Saks Fifth Avenue, said, “It’s great news. The new financial backing can only add structure [to Brian’s business] and take the brand to greater heights.”

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