One down, two to go: In April, JAB announced it was no longer interested in the luxury business and was looking to sell its assets, Bally, Belstaff and Jimmy Choo. With the latter sold to Michael Kors Holdings Ltd. for an eye-watering $1.35 billion, it’s now up to Bally and Belstaff to find new homes — although it’s unlikely they’ll be fetching a similar price.
The deals, which are set to take place by the end of the year, will be smaller and most likely will involve trade buyers such as Interparfums, which had been eager to buy Choo but couldn’t come up with enough cash. Sovereign funds and private equity investors are also likely candidates.
Luca Solca, managing director at Exane BNP Paribas, said the Jimmy Choo sale “was the most difficult, as it was the most expensive. From what I understand, selling Belstaff and Bally should be easier. Private equity and sovereign funds are probably in pole position.”
Coye Nokes, a luxury goods retail specialist and partner at the consulting firm OC&C Strategy, said private equity is still very interested in fashion and luxury, although investors “have to know how to manage a creative, luxury, enduring business.”
Bally and Belstaff are very different animals from Choo, a profitable, publicly listed company. Although the leather goods and accessories house Bally has aspirations to become a $1 billion brand, it is still undergoing a turnaround — and a series of cost-cutting measures — under its chief executive officer, Frédéric de Narp.
If all goes according to plan, sources close to Bally said a short list of buyers will be nailed down by the start of October, with a deal set to close by the end of the year.
Known for its motorcycle-inspired outerwear, Belstaff is in the process of transforming itself into a lifestyle brand, but it remains a work in progress and, according to the latest Companies House, continues to suffer losses. In July, Renzo Rosso’s OTB denied a British newspaper report that it was interested in buying Belstaff.
A financial source said that because the company is losing double-digit millions, it will most likely be sold with a “dowry,” or sweetener, to whomever the buyer happens to be. “It’s an operation in need of a serious turnaround,” the source said, “although JAB doesn’t want to see it fold; it wants to sell.” In the meantime, the brand is pushing ahead with new store openings in Canada and Japan.
As for potential takers for both companies, another financial source said the Chinese investor Hony — another past contender for Choo — is looking for acquisitions in the fashion and luxury space, as is CVC Capital Partners.
Private equity investors in the U.K., Europe and the U.S. have been busy this year and could be potential suitors: Luxcite took a controlling stake in the London label Osman and also invested alongside the Italian entrepreneur Alessandro Bastagli in Shanghai Tang. The Carlyle Group, meanwhile, purchased Golden Goose for about 400 million euros ($472 million).
Trade buyers are not to be discounted: Jil Sander’s owner, Onward Luxury Group, an Italy-based fashion manufacturer and distributor, took a majority stake in Charlotte Olympia this summer and is said to be on the prowl for other acquisitions.