Sports Direct Takes Bet On Iconix

Investors may have sold off their shares in Iconix Brand Group at a frenetic pace in recent months, but at least one new suitor is taking a bet on the firm.

Sports Direct International plc, mega UK-based sports retailer and owner of several sport, fashion and lifestyle brands, has snapped up an indirect economic interest in 4.3 million Iconix shares, or 9 percent of the company, according to a document filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission Tuesday.

Since Nov. 13, 2015, when the company purchased 100,178 shares, Sports Direct has aggressively built up its stake by making a series of hefty share buys.

Sports Direct, founded by British billionaire Mike Ashley in 1982, operates approximately 455 sports stores in the UK, according to its website. Its retail division sells products for brands in its portfolio and its brands division “exploits the brands through its wholesale and licensing businesses,” the website said.

Dunlop, Slazenger, Everlast, LA Gear and Kangol are among the company’s sports and leisure brands while Crafted, Fabric and Firetrap are a few its fashion and lifestyle labels.

According to the SEC filing, Sports Direct does not have the power to “vote or direct the vote or to dispose or direct the disposition,”of any of the shares.

Still, insiders have speculated the move could signal that Sports Direct is considering a takeover of the firm.

Over the past year, Iconix — which owns or has an interest in several major brands, including Candie’s, Badgley Mischka, London Fog and the Peanuts franchise — shed more than 80 percent of its share price following news of an SEC probe and the seemingly abrupt departure of founder, chairman and CEO Neil Cole as well as the firm’s CFO and COO.

In FY15, Sports Direct sales totaled 2.8 billion euros; revenue for the first half of FY16 was 1.4 billion euros. Meanwhile, in the most recent quarter, Q3, Iconix posted a net loss of $6.3 million, while its revenues declined 19 percent to $88.9 million.

At press time, Iconix’s share price advanced 7 cents, or 1.02 percent, to $6.47.

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