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Fung Brands, Sonia Rykiel Close In on Deal

The parties are in exclusive talks to form a partnership and develop the brand.

TOKYO — Fung Brands and Sonia Rykiel said Thursday they are in exclusive talks for a deal that would see Fung Brands acquire 80 percent of the Rykiel business, leaving the Rykiel family with a 20 percent stake. Financial terms were not disclosed.

A spokeswoman said discussions should be completed in the “coming days or weeks, depending on legal or administrative steps.”

Nathalie Rykiel, Sonia’s daughter and the current managerial head of the brand, will be named vice chairman of the board of the French fashion house after the deal.

Fung Brands Ltd. is a subsidiary of Fung Capital Ltd., the investment arm of the families of Hong Kong-based Victor Fung and William Fung, who separately control the Li & Fung Group.

Jean-Marc Loubier, formerly of Celine, Louis Vuitton and Escada, is the president and chief executive officer of Fung Brands Ltd. Since it was founded last year, Fung Brands has acquired majority stakes in French shoe brand Robert Clergerie and Belgian leather goods concern Delvaux. The future of Sonia Rykiel had come into question recently. Last summer, Rykiel mandated Edmond de Rothschild Corporate Finance to study the possibility of selling a minority stake in the family-owned house in order to speed its expansion.

Sonia Rykiel posted sales of 89.6 million euros, or $118.9 million, in 2010, roughly flat versus the previous year, Sonia Rykiel said last year.

On Thursday, Nathalie Rykiel stated that the Fung deal would ensure the longevity of the brand and “allow it to successfully develop in new markets respectful of its identity.”

In September, Sonia Rykiel named April Crichton creative director of its main fashion line. A graduate of Central Saint Martins in London, Crichton worked alongside the house founder and helped to develop the secondary Sonia by Sonia Rykiel line.

Prior to Crichton’s appointment, Nathalie and Sonia Rykiel had been in charge of the house’s fashion direction since the departure of Gabrielle Greiss in 2009, after less than 18 months at the helm.