Global Financial services firm Guggenheim Partners is said to be hunting for investment deals.
Financial sources said the company is casting a wide net to evaluate investment prospects. Those discussions more recently are said to include talks with Juicy Couture cofounders Pamela Skaist-Levy and Gela Nash-Taylor about possibly funding a buyback of the company they sold to Fifth & Pacific for more than $230 million, including the assumption of debt and earn-out payments over several years, in 2003. Fifth & Pacific at the time was known as Liz Claiborne Inc. It couldn’t be determined whether those conversations have led to a bid for the brand, although sources last week said the cofounders were believed to have come up empty in their quest for funding.
Meanwhile, Guggenheim is set to take control of BCBG Max Azria Group, a company it has funded for a decade. The firm already owns most of BCBG’s debt. As reported in February, the fashion house was hitting a critical financial juncture again and Guggenheim was expected at that point to recapitalize its stake and take control of BCBG. Financial sources said then that because of the decade-long investment Guggenheim had in BCBG, Blackstone Group was hired to provide a financial opinion to keep any proposed structure at “arm’s length.” Officially BCBG insisted that Blackstone was advising on strategic alternatives, including other possible investors.
While private equity firms such as Sycamore Partners had been contacted by Blackstone, the word over the weekend was that there really wasn’t anyone interested in investing in BCBG, or even taking over a portion of the Guggenheim debt.
One concern, sources indicated, is over what would happen to the company should founder and designer Max Azria — whose persona is behind the image of his brands — no longer be involved in the firm.
A Guggenheim spokesman said Monday, “Guggenheim is arranging a new investment in a new class of preferred stock in BCBG.” That arrangement isn’t a done deal. Talks are still in progress, and could still break down. A BCBG spokeswoman declined to provide any details on timing, but said a development is expected “shortly.”
The new equity deal, plus the debt Guggenheim already holds — about $475 million of the total $675 million in debt divided into three tranches — would essentially give the financial services firm majority ownership in BCBG, although Azria is likely to retain a small ownership stake and creative control of the brands under its portfolio. Those brands include BCBG, Max Azria and Hervé Léger by Max Azria. Sources said should the Guggenheim transaction get completed, an executive likely will be brought in to run the day-to-day operations and keep a tight grip on the finances.
Headquartered in New York and Chicago, the privately held firm has offices in 20 U.S. cities and in seven countries overseas in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. The firm has more than $180 billion under management.
Its investment banking arm on the West Coast is led by Peter Comisar, who is vice chairman and head of West Coast Investment Banking. The group focuses on the consumer retail and digital e-commerce sectors.
Comisar, experienced in the apparel sector, most recently worked on the True Religion Apparel Inc. sale to TowerBrook Capital Partners in a transaction valued at $835 million, which includes the $220 million in cash that’s on the apparel firm’s balance sheet. True Religion shareholders will vote on the deal later this month. Comisar’s doggedness is credited for getting the deal done, after many months in which naysayers doubted whether there would be any buyers for a brand that is considered still in turnaround mode. Guggenheim also advised Hot Topic in its sale to Sycamore Partners for $600 million.
In New York, it recently added investment banker Adam Rifkin, who was at Barclays. Rifkin will join the New York team in September. In that move, he will rejoin former Barclays colleague Andrew Taussig. Both have experience in the apparel sector on the advisory side.
As for actual investments, besides apparel, Guggenheim in January formed Guggenheim Digital Media, which was set up to acquire and invest in new media firms and properties. Included in its current portfolio of investments is Prometheus Global Media, which controls Billboard, AdWeek and The Hollywood Reporter. The digital media group also manages The Film Expo Group and CLIO Awards, as well as work on the digital media strategies of other Guggenheim investments, such as Dick Clark Productions.
Another high-profile investment of Guggenheim is the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team, which was acquired in 2012 for $2.15 billion in cash in a consortium led by Guggenheim.
As one of the most recognizable models in the world, Christy Turlington Burns has an insider’s view of the fashion industry and the allegations of sexual harassment swirling around it. “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated in the industry. The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experiences at some point in our careers,” Turlington told WWD, along with her suggestions for how the modeling world should protect younger women and men. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: Tony Palmieri) #wwdnews
@asics America has tapped a new brand ambassador: famed DJ/record producer @steveaoki. This initiative is intended to set the tone for the new brand identity and philosophy and will include partnerships with influencers and in-store and off-line activations that will continue into next year. This is Asics’ most significant marketing effort in two decades, and is expected to attract younger consumers to the brand. #wwdfashion
24-year-old Jean Prounis is redefining the rules of jewelry. Formerly a studio assistant to Jemima Kirke and a design apprentice at Ghuran, she focuses on handcrafted subtleties and ancient goldsmithing techniques. “There was a really sterile feel in the environment and I wanted to have jewelry with character that shapes how you wear it everyday,” Prounis said. Each piece is hand made in New York, either by Prounis or three other jewelers in the district. #wwdfashion
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews
“Stranger Things” is getting a new cast member for season 2. Meet @sadiesink_, the 15-year-old who will be joining the Netflix series for its new season. You may recognize her from “The Glass Castle” with Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson, but the Texas native’s next role goes in an entirely different direction. She describes her character, Max, as “a rough and tumble skater girl [who] becomes friends with the boys at school.” The second season debuts on October 27. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdeye
Amid the Harvey Weinstein controversy, there’s another sector that’s being put under the spotlight for sexual abuse: the modeling industry. While rumors about abuse and sexual harassment of female and male models — and the photographers, agents and others who perpetrated it — have circulated within the fashion world for years, model @cameronrussell started posting stories from models on Instagram last week about abusive situations they’ve encountered — from sexual harassment and molestation to attempted rape. Over 75 have weighed in so far. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews
To celebrate its 16th anniversary, @dylanscandybar tapped designers and celebrities to create mosaics out of candy. The mosaics will be auctioned off to support the philanthropic cause of each participant’s choice. Pictured here is the mural created by @aliceandolivia's Stacey Bendet. For a first look at some of the other artwork being unveiled tonight, go to WWD.com. #wwdeye
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye