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Brightwork Brand Acquires Ghurka

New owners will initially focus on expanding the brand beyond its current luggage and small accessories base into handbags and other product categories.

Brightwork Brand Holdings Corp. has acquired the Ghurka accessories and luggage brand from Accessory Network Group, WWD has learned.

This story first appeared in the September 23, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Brightwork, a private equity firm founded in January, is headed by John Reuter as chief executive officer and Christopher West as chief operating officer. Reuter is a former Time Warner executive while West previously served with Procter & Gamble’s prestige beauty unit and Zac Posen. Terms of the transaction, the firm’s first acquisition, weren’t disclosed.

The new owners will initially focus on expanding Ghurka beyond its current luggage and small accessories base into women’s handbags and other product categories. “Handbags present a tremendous opportunity,” West told WWD. “And we believe there are opportunities in retail as well. We’ll have a combination of direct retail and wholesale and, at least initially, will focus on the U.S. We aim to grow Ghurka from a heritage leather goods line into a robust lifestyle brand.”

The company has a lease in place for a store at the Sherry Netherland Hotel in Manhattan, where it expects to open by mid-November. “I think we can have five stores in the U.S. on not too long a horizon,” West said.

The brand is seeking a creative director and other executive personnel and will retain the staff that had overseen it at ANG.

Founded in 1975 by Marley Hodgson, Ghurka was acquired by ANG in 2003. The company had sought a buyer for the brand in 2006 but later abandoned plans for a sale. Distribution has been limited, with market sources estimating wholesale revenues at about $2 million a year.

The transaction follows ANG’s acquisitions of Kooba and Yak Pak earlier this year.

Abe Chehebar, ceo of ANG, told WWD, “Ghurka is a great luxury brand with a great heritage, but with Kooba and Yak Pak, we really want to put our resources, energies into focusing on those two brands. Basically, Ghurka was the only brand on our roster that was focused on men’s. The 60 percent of business we do in private label is also women’s.”

 

The company continues to market luxury accessories through both Kooba and private label.

 

He added that ANG is working on an acquisition of another women’s brand, which he declined to disclose.

Brightwork on Aug. 26 said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it was looking to raise $12.5 million in equity financing. Proceeds would be used “to acquire the assets related to a luxury retail brand,” but West said those funds would be used for subsequent acquisitions. “We’re looking at the aspirational space — brands with innovative design, technology and marketing that will help protect margins.”