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Footwear Retailer Office Holdings On the Block

Firm hires advisors to consider options, sale.

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

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

The business has more than tripled its retail portfolio since 2003, when it was acquired by West Coast Capital.

“It is a very interesting retailer that has great style and has been accepted extremely well in Europe,” said Financo Inc. chairman Gilbert Harrison. “There should be a lot of interest from both strategic buyers as well as from financial buyers.”

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

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

It’s been a year of deals with shoe companies for Financo, which so far has been involved in the sale of a majority interest in Stuart Weitzman to Jones Apparel Group Inc., the sale of handbag firm Big Buddha Inc. to Steve Madden Ltd. and the sale of the remaining 50 percent of Edelman Shoe Inc. to Brown Shoe Co. Inc.

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

• The footwear category has become more attractive as budget-minded shoppers try to update wardrobes less expensively.

• Private equity companies are looking to cash out of portfolio companies, especially as expected changes to the tax codes could make it more expensive next year.

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