Pegasus Capital Advisors has sold a majority stake in luxury American accessories brand Leiber to Schottenstein Stores Corp., which owns a majority of Filene’s Basement and DSW Shoe Warehouse and is the largest shareholder of American Eagle Outfitters.
The company declined to comment on financial terms of the sale.
Mary Gleason, president of Schottenstein’s luxury brand group, has been named Leiber’s new president. Frank Zambrelli, who was president and creative director, has resigned to pursue other initiatives. Geraldine Morley, a senior designer at Leiber, has been named creative director.
While the acquisition could raise questions about whether Schottenstein would bring Leiber to a more mass level, Gleason insisted that the brand will maintain its status as an American luxury brand.
“What’s unique about the Leiber brand is that it’s at the highest level of luxury,” Gleason said. “The great thing about Schottenstein is that they are enamored with the luxury business and think Leiber is a jewel. We intend to keep it at the highest level and support the group that’s here. The majority of people in the company have been with the company, and we feel very strongly that we’ll keep it at that level. Obviously that’s our direction. These businesses are a separate entity and we think there is a tremendous opportunity to expand.”
Leiber is the second company in Schottenstein Stores’ burgeoning luxury group. In 2006, it bought the women’s apparel and accessories firm Adrienne Vittadini with intentions to pursue the category. Asked to comment on industry reports that Schottenstein was looking to buy Bill Blass from the troubled NexCen Brands with Arnold Simon, president and chief executive officer of Designer Licensing Holdings, which has the Bill Blass jeanswear license and owns 10 percent of the Bill Blass trademark, Gleason referred the matter to Simon.
Reached by phone, Simon declined comment.
NexCen bought the Blass business in February 2007 for $54.6 million. Neither Ben Kraner, senior vice president of Schottenstein Stores, nor Robert D’Loren, president and ceo of NexCen, returned phone calls seeking comment.
Leiber, which until a couple of years ago was named Judith Leiber, after its namesake founder, is known for its crystal studded evening bags and day bags with exotic skins. The 45-year-old firm also has lines of fine jewelry, fur, footwear, eyewear and fragrance.
Gleason said the company will keep its current licenses intact — fragrance, jewelry and eyewear — and will determine what its plans are for its fur and shoe collections, which are produced in small quantities in-house.
-With contributions from Lisa Lockwood
For more, see Friday’s issue of WWD.