By  on November 1, 2007

Liz Claiborne Inc. is closing in on buyers for a package of four of its nine remaining brands.

At least two buyers are said to be circling in on Dana Buchman, Ellen Tracy, Sigrid Olsen and Prana as a package deal.

According to sources close to the deal, Li & Fung's Regatta division and Windsong Apparel are among those still in the running for the brands, which Claiborne put under review as part of its strategic restructuring on July 11. Last month, Li & Fung USA, a subsidiary of Li & Fung Ltd., bought four of Claiborne's moderate brands — Emma James, Tapemeasure, JH Collectibles and Intuitions — via its Regatta division. Li & Fung president Rick Darling on Wednesday denied his company was entering another round of bidding with Claiborne.

Windsong and Claiborne executives could not be reached for comment. Sources added that retailers, and even competitor Kellwood Co., have eyed the Claiborne brands.

Dana Buchman and Ellen Tracy, both bridge-priced brands that have struggled in recent seasons, are each estimated at less than $100 million in volume. Sigrid Olsen, a better-priced line with wholesale and retail channels, is estimated at around $80 million. Acquired in 2005, active brand Prana — which Claiborne has said is the most attractive brand on review to hang on to if its asking price is not met — is estimated around $40 million and is just opening its first two retail stores.

Five other of the $4.99 billion vendor's brands remain on the block, including Enyce, Laundry, C&C California, Mac & Jac and Kensie .

In Claiborne's third-quarter earnings call Tuesday, chief executive officer William L. McComb revised the schedule for when he expects to complete the sale of the nine remaining brands to the end of the first quarter of 2008 from the end of the second quarter, and he added he was bullish the process could be completed even sooner. With retailers buying the brands cautiously while they wait to see who their next owner will be and if there will be a change in channel, McComb said a speedy process was advantageous. As he continues his turnaround of the company, McComb is putting his energies on the group's direct brands, which consist of Juicy Couture, Lucky, Mexx and Kate Spade. Over the last few months, Claiborne has made $130 million in costs cuts.

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