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Aronsson Closing In on Ghurka Deal

Aronsson Group LLC, the private equity firm headed by Jeffry Aronsson, may be close to making its first acquisition - Ghurka, the luxury fine leather goods brand owned by Accessory Network Group, people familiar with the situation said.

NEW YORK — Aronsson Group LLC, the private equity firm headed by Jeffry Aronsson, may be close to making its first acquisition — Ghurka, the luxury fine leather goods brand owned by Ac­cessory Network Group, people familiar with the situation said.

“We’re evaluating various offers from various parties,” said Abe Chehebar, chief executive officer of Ghurka and ANG. “We’ve not yet come to a conclusion, so I can’t confirm or deny it. Within the next few weeks, we’ll determine the direction for the brand.”

Aronsson declined comment.

Chehebar established an ANG-affiliated company, Vergier Holdings, which bought Ghurka in 2003 from its founder Marley Hodgeson. However, last July, ANG retained Financo, an investment banking firm, to consider strategic alternatives for the brand after ANG acquired LeSportsac in February 2006 for a reported $100 million.

Ghurka, which sources say generates about $15 million in volume, is part of ANG’s Luxury Division, which includes the licensed Cal­vin Klein accessories and Isaac Mizrahi bridge handbags businesses.

“With the recent acquisition of LeSportsac, Ghurka was inconsistent with the way the company runs,” Chehebar said. “We’ve been spending a lot of time with it, and it’s not a big business. It has tremendous recognition. In the right hands, it can grow into something substantial if someone puts a full focus on it and invests in it properly.”

Since buying Ghurka, ANG relocated its store on Madi­son Avenue here and opened a Michigan Av­enue flagship in Chicago. Eighty percent of Ghurka’s business is in men’s accessories, and 20 percent is in women’s accessories. The firm produces most of its line in Norwalk, Conn. “There’s a lot of growth opportunities in women’s,” Chehebar said.

Aronsson, most recently ceo of Donna Karan International and, before that, ceo of Marc Jacobs and Oscar de la Renta, formed a firm last fall focused on acquisitions and proprietary brand development in the luxury market.

At the time of the company’s creation, he told WWD, “Our targets can be everything from restructurings and turnarounds of existing operating branded businesses to partnering with up-and-coming innovative designers and talent to build important brands with significant sales and profits. We are currently looking at a broad spectrum of deal sizes, which currently range from capital needs of less than $50 million to more than $1 billion.”

This story first appeared in the March 21, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Aronsson, whose partner is Shauna Mei, a former Goldman Sachs investment banker, said the company’s investment capital is derived from financial and strategic partners.