Liz Claiborne Inc. is said to be close to a deal to sell the Ellen Tracy brand to a consortium led by Windsong Brands, a Westport, Conn.-based private equity firm.
A source familiar with the talks said a deal is "close" to completion. Another financial source used the term "imminent" to describe the pending transaction.
WWD reported on Nov. 1 that Windsong was among those said to be bidding for the brand.
A source close to the talks said Windsong is coleading the consortium with the Radius Group, but declined to provide more information. Other investors in the consortium are a private investment group led by Barry Sternlicht and American Capital Strategies Ltd.
The sources said the parties are in the latter stages of due diligence. It is believed the investment group and the apparel giant already have agreed on price, but the dollar figure could not be learned by press time.
Executives at Claiborne and Windsong both declined comment.
Sternlicht is chairman and chief executive officer of Starwood Capital Group, a real estate investment and private equity firm he formed in 1991. Starwood has headquarters in Greenwich, Conn. Sternlicht founded Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. He also led the expansion of the W Hotels brand, as well as the St. Regis.
American Capital is no stranger to fashion for Baby Boomers. It recently bought Appleseeds Brands, a private label apparel brand for women and men ages 55 and older.
Ellen Tracy was bought by Claiborne in September 2002 for about $180 million, ending the brand's 53-year run as a private firm. Company founder Herbert Gallen continued to serve as chairman, and his wife, Linda Allard, remained as design director, until their retirement in 2003. Gallen passed away last September at age 92.
In its heyday, Ellen Tracy was a powerhouse with annual volume of $300 million. At the time of its sale to Claiborne, annual volume was around $200 million, according to industry sources.
One industry source said, "Ellen Tracy was once a great brand, but became a shadow of what it used to be after its sale to Claiborne, due in part to the retirement of Gallen and Allard." The source cited Allard as the driving force behind the brand. He noted that the current "volume is believed to have dropped to around $100 million."
"We think it is one of the foremost trademarks with a great history," said Andrew Jassin, managing director of the New York consulting firm Jassin O'Rourke Group. "It is the first brand that existed in the bridge zone. It has always been known, up until recently, for great fabric and styling. The Ellen Tracy brand has a loyal Baby and Echo Boomer customer mix who have been disappointed since the sale of Ellen Tracy to Liz Claiborne."
Jassin believes Tracy could once again be one of the premier American women's brands provided it is "run properly and licensed out" appropriately.
"There are line extensions that could be expanded to include better footwear and jewelry and through all of the fashion zones. What the Ellen Tracy brand needs is better marketing to get back to its roots. It has a loyal customer waiting for new product to come back to the market," he said.
Windsong focuses on investments in leading middle-market consumer companies that own strong recognizable brands. The fund makes minority investments in both public and private companies. Windsong Brands has partnered with others in investments in Joe's Jeans and Caribbean Joe. Its founder, chairman and ceo is William Sweedler.
Prior to founding Windsong, Sweedler was president and ceo of Joe Boxer, now a wholly owned division of the Iconix Brand Group. He also was a founder of Windsong Allegiance Group, an apparel manufacturer and brand manager, a firm in which he still retains the role of chairman. WAG owns, manages or licenses the brands Como Sport, PRX Performance, Calvin Klein Golf, Joseph Abboud Classics and Pivot Rules.
Sources familiar with the consortium said the investors want to bring the Ellen Tracy brand back up to the better bridge category.
A sale of Tracy would almost complete the $4.99 billion Claiborne's program of disposals of underperforming or noncore brands in its drive to focus on "power brands." In September, the group sold four moderate brands — Emma James, Tapemeasure, JH Collectibles and Intuitions — to the Regatta division of Li & Fung USA, a subsidiary of Li & Fung Ltd., for an undisclosed amount.
Sources said Dana Buchman most likely will not be sold since, as reported last month, Claiborne now is leaning toward licensing the bridge brand to a retailer. Claiborne executives declined comment.
“My personal philosophy to beauty is paying attention to oneself. I love to be outdoors, lots of fresh air, trying to take care of yourself as best you can. I always notice that comes through,” says Felicity Jones, the global face of @shiseido-owned @cledepeaubeauteus, which launches today. Head to WWD.com to read more about the actress’ love for beauty and how she prepared for her new role in “The Basis of Sex,” playing the young Ruth Bader Ginsburg. #wwdbeauty (📷: @dandoperalski)
For men’s fall 2018, @giuseppezanotti drew on elements from streetwear, sport, biker, combat and rock ‘n’ roll. Pictured here are a pair of shoes from the collection, featuring zippers, rhinestones, and silver hardware. Head to WWD.com to see a roundup of the accessories from Milan’s men’s fall 2018 shows. #wwdfashion (📷: Andrea Delb)
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of @ralphlauren’s snowboarding collection, the brand is mining its archives. The iconic brand is reintroducing vintage styles and dropping new designs for a color capsule that will be available in Ralph Lauren stores and @openingceremony on January 25. The capsule will consist of 10 pieces, including the Snow Beach Pullover, pictured here, which is a collector’s item that rapper Raekwon wore in Wu-Tang Clan’s “Can It Be All So Simple” video. #wwdfashion (📷: Tom Gould)
For @rochasofficial’s pre-fall 2018 collection, creative director Alessandro Dell’Acqua channeled the sophisticated and intriguing Catherine Denevue in the film “Belle de Jour.” Polished collarless coats, midi skirts, suits and ’60s graphic motifs were all featured in the collection, adding a sense of discreet luxury. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion
“We tried to produce clothing of that couture quality, but the most daunting part was that we only had a matter of days [to do it],” said costume designer Lou Eyrich, who recreated Gianni Versace’s iconic looks for @americancrimestoryfx. Eyrich searched online retailers and vintage shops for original pieces from the design house and for @penelopecruzoficial, who plays Donatella Versace. Head to WWD.com to read how she created the Versace world. #wwdfashion
Only three months after her stellar debut catwalk season, @kaiagerber has inked her first big design collaboration –– with @karllagerfeld. The collection blends Lagerfeld’s Parisian chic aesthetic and the model’s signature West Coast casual style via RTW, accessories, footwear and more. The #KarlLagerfeldxKaia collection will launch in September with a series of events. Get all the details on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
Harrods plans to remove the famous statue of Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed from the bottom of the Egyptian escalators and hand it back to Mohamed Al-Fayed. “We are very proud to have played our role in celebrating the lives of Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Al Fayed at Harrods and to have welcomed people from around the world to visit the memorial for the past 20 years,” said Michael Ward, Harrods managing director. “With the announcement of the new official memorial statue to Diana, Princess of Wales at Kensington Palace, we feel that the time is right to return this memorial to Mr. Al Fayed and for the public to be invited to pay their respects at the palace.” More on the news, with reporting by @loreleimarfil, at WWD.com. #wwdnews