SINGAPORE — L Capital Asia, the private equity fund set up by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, has bought 49.9 percent of Australian heritage outfitter R.M. Williams.
A price for the transaction was not disclosed, but press reports estimate that L Capital spent around 50 million Australian dollars, or $52.5 million at current exchange, on the deal. LVMH’s investment arm typically takes out minority stakes in companies, though it purchased a majority holding in Melbourne-based food emporium Jones the Grocer last year.
R.M. Williams was founded in 1932 by Reginald Murray Williams, an Australian bushman, and now operates more than 50 stores there and one each in London and New York. The brand, which is best known for its boots collection, is also stocked across 900 points of sale globally.
Ken Cowley, a former senior executive at News Corp.’s Australian arm, has owned the label for nearly 20 years and was reportedly looking for a partner to fund international expansion. He will retain a majority stake in the company as well as his current title of chairman, according to R.M. Williams.
“Partnering with L Capital, which is sponsored by one of the globe’s most prestigious and revered brand companies, LVMH, will allow the R.M. Williams name to reach its full potential. [Murray] was one of my closest friends, and I promised him in 2003, before he passed, that I would take his legacy to the world,” Cowley said.
R.M. Williams has been a longtime sponsor of the Australian Olympic equestrian team, and its client list is believed to include the Australian celebrities Russell Crowe and Elle Macpherson. Its executive designer, Jonathan Ward, is known for having created couture pieces for Macpherson, Kylie Minogue and Nicole Kidman.
Since news of a possible acquisition by a foreign investor broke in late March, a Facebook group has been created to demand that the Australian brand “be kept Australian.”
The names of several potential suitors to R.M. Williams were making the rounds recently. Those companies included Malaysian conglomerate YTL and David Jones Ltd., the Australian department store chain.