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The Private Life of Kenneth Cole

After taking his company private on Tuesday, the designer plans to focus more on product and design.

NEW YORK — Today’s the first day of the rest of Kenneth Cole’s life.

This story first appeared in the September 26, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The designer — who spent 18 years under the glare of Wall Street — took his company private Tuesday for $15.25 a share, giving the firm an enterprise value of about $245 million.

From now on, Kenneth Cole Productions Inc. will be worth what he can make of it. Exactly what that will be is not clear, even to him.

“As a public company, you’re not encouraged to work on your Plan B scenario until that scenario comes to be,” Cole told WWD. “Everything you discuss is of public record. We’re going to work now to more clearly lay out and articulate what this company can look like and how we can be more efficient and productive as a private company.”

What’s clear is that Cole will be focusing more on design and getting the brand’s message out to the world, especially through digital marketing. A higher-end men’s and women’s sportswear line, Kenneth Cole Collection, launched in March.

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“It’s a new chapter, but it’s an exciting one and these are exciting times,” Cole said. “The whole world seems to be changing as we speak, and there are new ways of doing business and there are new ways to connect with audiences and consumers.”

The designer seemed pleased to get off of the treadmill of quarterly profit updates to Wall Street and the stock-price roller coaster.

“First and foremost, the design culture and the product will rise above everything else as it had at one point in our company’s heritage,” Cole said. “The markets insist upon short-term results and they reward you if you realize them and they penalize you severely if you don’t. But at the end of the day, short-term results are not usually what serves the needs of companies like ours.”

Cole offered to take over the company in February and was advised by Peter J. Solomon Co. The designer already owned 46 percent of the company, but the company’s other shareholders had to sign off on the deal, which they did on Monday.

Although Cole has partners in the deal, he said most of the money for the buyout was his own.