By  on July 2, 2010

Private equity-owned footwear retailer Office Holdings Ltd. has hiredFinanco in the U.S. and Hawkpoint in the U.K. to help access itsbusiness options and invite buyers in to kick the tires.

TheLondon-based firm, which an industry source said has annual revenues ofabout 150 million pounds, or $225 million at current exchange, has agrowing online presence and 124 stores, including concessions inSelfridges, House of Fraser, Harvey Nichols and Topshop. The Topshopconnection has given the company a pied-à-terre in New York.

Thebusiness has more than tripled its retail portfolio since 2003, when itwas acquired by West Coast Capital.

“It is a very interestingretailer that has great style and has been accepted extremely well inEurope,” said Financo Inc. chairman Gilbert Harrison. “There should be alot of interest from both strategic buyers as well as from financialbuyers.”

Harrison said e-commerce makes up almost 10 percent ofOffice’s sales and that the firm would be a good fit for companieslooking to expand into Europe and to bring the brand to the U.S.

Officeis run by chief executive officer Brian McCluskey, who Harrison said“has no intention of departing. He will be a key force and their wholeinfrastructure will be very important” to potential buyers.

It’sbeen a year of deals with shoe companies for Financo, which so far hasbeen involved in the sale of a majority interest in Stuart Weitzman toJones Apparel Group Inc., the sale of handbag firm Big Buddha Inc. toSteve Madden Ltd. and the sale of the remaining 50 percent of EdelmanShoe Inc. to Brown Shoe Co. Inc.

The move to put Office on themarket highlights a few of this year’s major themes:

• Thefootwear category has become more attractive as budget-minded shopperstry to update wardrobes less expensively.

• Private equitycompanies are looking to cash out of portfolio companies, especially asexpected changes to the tax codes could make it more expensive nextyear.

• U.S. firms are becoming more serious about expandinginto Europe, given slower growth prospects at home, as in Phillips-VanHeusen Corp.’s $3 billion acquisition of Tommy Hilfiger.

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