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Smythson Brand Sold to Greenwill SA

Smythson, the luxury stationer and leather goods label, has been acquired by Greenwill SA, the company said Thursday.

LONDON — Smythson, the luxury stationer and leather goods label, has been acquired by Greenwill SA, the company said Thursday. Greenwill, which is reported to have acquired Smythson for 18 million pounds, or $29 million at current exchange, is the holding company for Tivoli Group, an Italian leather goods manufacturer which supplies accessories to a number of luxury labels. Smythson stated Tivoli Group’s expertise in leather goods “will enable Smythson to develop its fast-growing and expanding leather goods portfolio.”

This story first appeared in the December 18, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Smythson also said Tivoli intends to invest in the company “[to] provide the financial support and stability to continue to develop the brand and the business in the long-term.”

The company’s management team — which includes chief executive officer Paddy Byng and creative director Samantha Cameron — will remain on board after the acquisition. As part of the deal, Smythson’s management team will share 1.5 percent of the transaction price as a long-term incentive.

Greenwill acquired Smythson from Kelso Place Asset Management and Venrex Investment Management, which bought the company for 16 million pounds, or $25.8 million, in 2005. Later that year, Byng, a former Dunhill executive, joined the company as ceo. In 2006, Byng said he planned to expand the label’s retail presence by opening up to 30 boutiques worldwide by 2010. Since that time, the company’s retail expansion has been less aggressive, with Smythson’s total number of units growing from nine to 15. The company has two stores in the U.S., one in Hong Kong and 12 in the U.K..

The firm, which is primarily known for its high-end stationery, has been working to broaden its offering for more than a decade. Cameron, the wife of British Conservative Party leader David Cameron, initially joined the brand in the Nineties to introduce handbags and accessories, but the category never caught on with Smythson’s core clientele and was gradually downplayed as the brand went through different ownerships and management teams. Handbags and leather goods were relaunched in 2003 and have since been more successful. Previous owners of Smythson — founded by Frank Smythson in 1887 and holding three royal warrants — include entrepreneur Ray Cork, who sold the company to Kelso Place and Venrex, and John Menzies, a Scottish newspaper distribution and aviation company, which acquired Smythson in 1959.

Since Kelso and Venrex’s acquisition, the company has seen its turnover rise by 59 percent, and has forecast sales of 18 million pounds, or $29 million, for the fiscal year to March 2010. Smythson said Thursday that sales for the first eight-and-a-half months of the 2010 fiscal year are up 7 percent compared with the same period last year. According to accounts filed earlier this year at London’s Companies House, Smythson recorded sales of 15.9 million pounds, or $25.6 million, for the fiscal year to March 2008, a rise of 9.5 percent compared with the previous year.