BERLIN — Apax Partners, the global private equity group, might be eyeing a stake in Escada.

The German financial daily Handelsblatt reported on Monday that the London-based owner of Tommy Hilfiger and the German vertical fashion chain Street One has Escada in its sights, but did not specify if Apax was considering a minority or majority stake.

Apax and Escada declined to comment.

The troubled German fashion house has seen its share price slump from 33.86 euros, or $44.70, on Feb. 28, 2007, to 13.50 euros, or about $20.52, last Friday. The same day, the Escada Group reported weak first-quarter performance for fiscal 2007-08, with sales slipping 11.8 percent and operative earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization diving 68.5 percent in the quarter ending Jan. 31.

Escada’s shareholder structure is dominated by Rustam Aksenenko, who holds a 27 percent stake through his Geneva-based private investment firm, Finartis. The 34-year-old Russian has been at odds with Escada’s apparel-heavy business strategy, weak margins and slow pace of change.

In May, Escada chief executive officer Frank Rheinboldt was replaced by Jean-Marc Loubier, said to be Aksenenko’s favored choice. Claus Mingers, who was named chairman of the supervisory board of Escada AG last week, also is considered to be in the Aksenenko camp.

The annual shareholders’ meeting will be in Munich on April 17.

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