By  on June 12, 2006

NEW YORK — True Religion Apparel Inc. has hired Goldman, Sachs & Co. as a financial adviser in its search for a buyer, investment banking sources said.

The Los Angeles-based premium denim company said last month that it was considering a sale of the company. The decision came after private equity firms in recent months acquired the denim firms Seven For All Mankind and Citizens of Humanity.

Some bankers speculated that True Religion would be taken private by a financial buyer rather than be acquired by a strategic purchaser. They were unsure how to value the company.

Goldman, Sachs and True Religion declined to comment.

The premium denim market has become more crowded since True Religion launched in 2002. Eighteen months ago, True Religion was the top-selling jeans brand among six labels at Los Angeles' Kitson, moving 40 to 50 pairs a day, said boutique owner Fraser Ross. Now Kitson carries 14 denim labels and True Religion doesn't place in the top 10, Ross said.

Across town at Intuition, sales of True Religion are consistent, said owner Jaye Hersh. Carrying as many as 10 denim brands, Hersh said True Religion ranked in the top three.

Although True Religion keeps up with trends in the denim market and creates new washes, Hersh said the company faces the challenge of appealing to shoppers who are curious about new brands. "We do have repeat customers but I also have customers who have been there, done that and are looking for the next thing," Hersh said.

True Religion sells to 600 doors across the U.S. The company recently beefed up its executive ranks, installing a new president who previously oversaw Ben Sherman's North American division, as well as a chief operating officer who had spent 13 years at Jones Apparel Group's junior brand L.E.I.

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