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LONDON — Labelux Group, which on Sunday announced its purchase of Jimmy Choo, said the London-based brand has miles of unfulfilled potential —and nowhere more so than in Asia.
This story first appeared in the May 23, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The group, whose holdings including Bally, Derek Lam, Zagliani and Solange Azagury-Partridge, bought Choo from TowerBrook Capital LLP for an undisclosed price.
It beat competitors including TPG Capital and Jones Group Inc. in a deal sources say valued Choo at 549 million pounds, or $889.4 million.
The sale to Labelux comes 10 years after private equity owners Equinox, under the guidance of industry investor Robert Bensoussan, first purchased Choo, valuing the company at 20 million pounds, or $32.4 million.
Jimmy Choo has changed hands twice since then, its size, geographical reach and valuation spiraling each time. Labelux is Choo’s first industry, non-private equity, partner.
All figures have been converted at current exchange.
In its statement, Labelux said the management team, including chief executive officer Joshua Schulman and chief creative officer Tamara Mellon, who co-founded the company with Mr. Jimmy Choo, will remain in place.
“Jimmy Choo is a perfect fit for us, and we see ourselves as long-term strategic investors,” said Reinhard Mieck, ceo of Labelux, in a telephone interview Sunday.
“Joshua, Tamara and the management are going to need to deal with us for a very long time. We are thinking about strategies today that will take us beyond this generation to the one after that,” he added.
Labelux, which was formed in 2007 and is a division of the private, family-owned Joh A. Benckiser SE, owner of perfume maker Coty Inc., has so much to offer Jimmy Choo,” said Mieck.
He said Choo would complement — rather than compete with — Bally, and the two companies could help in other in different markets. “Jimmy Choo has enormous potential in Asia, and Bally has been there for 25 years. It could provide enormous support for the brand going forward. Bally can benefit from Jimmy Choo’s retail position in the U.S. It’s a perfect fit for both,” Mieck said, adding that other synergies, such as media costs, were in the cards.
Schulman, who was brought in by TowerBrook, said in a telephone interview: “Labelux is an ideal home for Jimmy Choo, the perfect partner. It’s a young, dynamic group and Jimmy Choo fits the portfolio so well — we were the missing piece in their puzzle,” he said, adding that TowerBrook had been “excellent partners and stewards for the brand.”
Mellon said: “My ambition for Jimmy Choo to inspire women around the world has never had any limits. I am immensely proud of all we have achieved over the last 15 years and delighted we are to be part of Labelux, a partner that I know shares our values and passion and seeks ambitious growth in the luxury industry.”
Mieck said Choo was attractive, in particular, because “it is not a niche brand. It has a wide range of customers and differentiated brand equity.” Labelux was impressed with the multichannel distribution, and the growth prospects across all categories, he said.
TowerBrook kicked off its strategic review of the brand in September, retaining Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to evaluate strategic options for the company it purchased from Lion Capital in 2007.
Their timing could not have been better: Revenues at Choo have more than doubled since TowerBrook took over, and the brand now has some 120 stores, up from 77 units when TowerBrook made its purchase.
An industry source familiar with Jimmy Choo said that the sale to an independent buyer was always the preferred option for Choo principals, although the company was considering an initial public offering on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
“The IPO option was on the table, but it wasn’t the ideal option. All the parties wanted a clean sale, a clean break,” the source said, adding that of all the candidates, “Labelux wanted it most.”
Mellon founded the business in 1996 with Mr. Jimmy Choo, the Malaysian-born Chinese shoemaker whose clients then included Princess Diana.
Earlier this year, Daniel Stewart, the London-based investment bank and corporate advisory firm, confirmed it is working with Mr. Choo on a possible bid, but that did not come to fruition.
“Substantial potential awaits the Jimmy Choo brand, particularly in Asia, where Labelux has a proven track record,” said Ramez Sousou, co-ceo of TowerBrook, about the Labelux deal. “We have huge admiration for Labelux and are delighted [they] will be supporting Jimmy Choo in the next stage of its development.”
The company’s sales in 2010 were 150 million pounds, or $243 million, and principals said it is generating double-digit growth in all categories and regions. In addition to footwear, the brand offers handbags, small leather goods, eyewear, scarves, belts, frangrance and men’s shoes. The newly-launched Jimmy Choo fragrance has “exceeded every expectation possible” and is turning out to be one of the most successful fragrance launches at Saks Fifth Avenue, Schulman said.