By  on July 9, 2007

NEW YORK — J. Lindeberg AB has been sold to Swedish private equity fund Proventus and Swedish financier Stefan Engström for an undisclosed sum.

The deal brings about a major restructuring of the company and an end to a contentious period that bottomed out with founder and creative director Johan Lindeberg stepping out of his post for several weeks. He returned in time to fine-tune the spring collection before last month's men's runway show in Milan, with a new title of independent creative director. This redefined role relieves him from involvement in daily operations and allows him to focus on creativity and design. He remains on the board.

Lindeberg was determined not to suffer the same fate as Helmut Lang and Roland Mouret — designers who lost the right to market under their own names — and actively recruited the new investors to take over J. Lindeberg on terms more favorable to him, he said.

The company will raise about $10.4 million (70 million Swedish kronor) through a preferential rights issue directed to Proventus, which is owned by Robert Weil. (Proventus was involved in the 1993 takeover of the Aritmos group, which began the revival of Puma, now being acquired by the French luxury conglomerate PPR for $7.05 billion.)

With preferential rights, the new owners of J. Lindeberg are granted the majority of votes at board level because each new share is worth 10 votes, not just one. Therefore Proventus becomes the new principal owner together with Engström, who replaces Arnt Jakobsen as chief executive officer.

"In the past few years the company has suffered from weak profitability, a nonoptimal group structure and internal turbulence. As the new principal owner, Proventus is now taking a number of measures in order to develop and reenergize the company, based on its strong brand and employees," J. Lindeberg said in a statement.

For starters, the company will acquire its previously independent distributor for Great Britain, Germany and Italy, whose current owners include Johan and Marcella Lindeberg and pro golfer Jesper Parnevik. These owners will exchange their holdings in the British company for shares in the parent company. As a result, J. Lindeberg will fully own all operations within product development and sales, as well as the distribution companies for Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Great Britain, Germany, Italy and the U.S.A new board will be appointed, including Proventus ceo Daniel Sachs as new chairman, Greger Ericsson as a representative for the previous principal owners and the film director Johan Renck.

J. Lindeberg was previously controlled by a number of independent Swedish investors and Swedish investment groups. Reportedly, one of Lindeberg's biggest points of conflict with them was their dismantling of the women's business, which was designed by his wife, Marcella. He now hopes to see the return of women's wear in fall 2009, he said.

The couple are moving with their daughter from London to New York, where they will launch an independent design consultancy called Bologna68, which will provide creative direction and design services for a variety

of brands.

"I've been in London five years and it's time for new inspiration," he said.

J. Lindeberg is best known for combining modern tailoring with a rock 'n' roll sensibility, although for spring 2008 it embraced a parched earthiness, influenced by Lindeberg's fondness for Mexican film directors.

Since its founding in 1996, J. Lindeberg has expanded to include the brands J. Lindeberg, Tailoring by J. Lindeberg, Johan by J. Lindeberg and JL by J. Lindeberg, an activewear division including JL Golf and JL Ski. These are sold through retailers in 25 countries, including Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale's in the U.S., and 10 flagships. The company has annual revenues of $55 million (370 million Swedish kronor) and brand sales of $149 million (1 billion Swedish kronor). — Jean Scheidnes

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