Exclusive: Steve Madden Is Buying Greats

Steve Madden is kicking up its sneaker business with the acquisition of Greats Brand Inc.

Greats, a digital upstart founded by Ryan Babenzein in 2014, has emerged as one of the hottest new labels in the sneaker space. Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but Madden said Greats had net sales of about $13 million for the 12 months ended June 30.

In the 30 years since I started Steve Madden, rarely have I come across an opportunity as exciting as this,” said the namesake founder and creative chief. “Ryan’s shoes are the talk among all the millennial men I encounter. He reminds me so much of myself. We can’t wait to explode this thing.”

For his part, Babenzein called Madden a “true maverick.”

Steve is one of the people I look up to in the footwear industry. He’s created a multibillion-dollar shoe business from nothing, and there are less than a handful of people in the world who have done that,” Babenzein said. “My goal has been the same since I started Greats, and that is to create one of the leading footwear brands in the world. This partnership is another chapter in the Greats book to help accomplish that, and I couldn’t be happier.”

Ryan Babenzien, Greats Brand
Ryan Babenzien, founder of Greats Brand.

Greats, which still sells most of its shoes through its e-commerce site, opened a 500-square-foot location on Crosby Street last year. The brand also inked a wholesale partnership with Nordstrom and unveiled a buzzy collaboration with men’s fashion authority Nick Wooster.

It’s clear that the Madden team sees major potential for Greats going forward.

“We see significant opportunity to expand the business by combining Greats’ strengths — which include an outstanding brand and stylish, classic designs that appeal to today’s more casual consumer — with our proven business model, established infrastructure and global reach,” said Ed Rosenfeld, CEO of Steve Madden.

Greats New York store
Greats’ store in New York’s Soho neighborhood.
CREDIT: Charlie Wang

An active acquirer, Madden bought Schwartz & Benjamin in 2017 and has also added Dolce Vita and Blondo, among others, during the past five years. The Greats deal, which will further diversify the company’s business, comes at a time when athleisure is booming.

Madden, which has been a standout footwear performer in a tough climate, reported second-quarter revenues of $445 million, a 12% increase over the year-ago period.

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