LONDON – Ted Baker confirmed Monday that it’s in exclusive talks with a single buyer, having whittled down its list of potential suitors late last month, and sources indicate the frontrunner is Authentic Brands Group.
Ted Baker, which put itself up for sale earlier this year, said Monday that having received a number of “revised non-binding proposals,” it has selected a “preferred counterparty” to pursue further due diligence on the high street brand.
That process is likely to take several weeks, Ted Baker said, adding that there can be no certainty that an offer will be made, nor the terms on which any offer will be made.
Ted Baker’s board also said that Sycamore Partners Management is no longer participating in the formal sale process. It was Sycamore that spurred Ted Baker to put it up for sale, having made a series of unsolicited offers for the brand.
Among the bidders that made it to the second round were ABG, Delta Galil Industries and Bluestar Alliance. Per stock market rules here, Ted Baker is under no obligation to disclose the name of the interested parties.
As reported, the criteria for any ABG acquisition is that it be a global brand with growth potential, much of it centered around licensing opportunities. And in the case of Ted Baker, the company fits the bill.
ABG recently finalized its 2.1 billion euro purchase of Reebok and partnered with David Beckham to co-own and manage his business. ABG’s value is now in excess of $21 billion as measured by annual retail sales.
Bluestar was founded by Joseph Gabbay and Ralph Gindi. It owns, manages and markets a portfolio of consumer brands that include Hurley, Justice, Brookstone, Tahari, Bebe, Kensie, Catherine Malandrino, Nanette Lepore, English Laundry and Limited Too.
Bluestar Alliance officials declined to comment on their interest in Ted Baker earlier this month.
Sources indicated that Bluestar is in talks with Ray Kelvin, the founder and former chief executive officer of Ted Baker, to bring him back on board if it succeeds in making the acquisition.
Kelvin left the company under a cloud in 2019, but is widely regarded as the soul of the brand even though he has not worked there for three years.
To wit, shares in Ted Baker jumped nearly 15% following media reports in 2019 that he was looking to back a private equity buyout of Ted Baker. Nothing came of those reports and Kelvin has been sitting on the sidelines since then.
He resigned as CEO amid an investigation into allegations of misconduct and inappropriate physical contact with staff. Kelvin has always denied the allegations.
Since he left the company has been on a rollercoaster ride, including a string of profit warnings, revolving door management and – eventually – a turnaround under the current CEO Rachel Osborne in what has been a difficult climate for physical retail in the U.K.
Ted Baker officially put itself up for sale in April, following a series of bids by the New York-based Sycamore to buy the business, all of which were rejected for being too low.
Sycamore offered 1.30 pounds a share and then returned with 1.38 pounds a share. The third offer was not revealed.
On Monday, shares in Ted Baker were broadly flat in mid-morning trading at 1.38 pounds.
-With Contributions from Lisa Lockwood
This story was reported by WWD and originally appeared on WWD.com.