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Maus Frères Takes Control of Lacoste

Swiss firm acquires another 30.3 percent of sportswear brand.

PARIS — It’s a changing of the guard at Lacoste SA.

Late on Friday, Swiss retail group Maus Frères SA seized majority control of the maker of crocodile-logo polo shirts, having signed an agreement to acquire an additional 30.3 percent of the firm’s capital.

Maus said the deal values the sportswear maker at between 1 billion and 1.25 billion euros, or $1.3 billion to $1.62 billion at current exchange.

The Swiss retail firm already controlled 35 percent of Lacoste via its Devanlay subsidiary, Lacoste’s apparel licensee.

Maus said it acquired the additional tranche of shares from members of the founding family, including former president Michel Lacoste, who recently resigned from the board amid a family tussle. Maus noted it has offered to buy the shares of remaining shareholders at the same price.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

“This transaction is the best guarantee for the Lacoste brand’s long-term future and the best way to fully capitalize on its assets,” the company said.

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In September, Michel Lacoste’s estranged daughter Sophie Lacoste Dournel was named president of the company’s non-executive board following a meeting of shareholders.

Lacoste Dournel’s election made headlines in France due to a conflict between some 20 members of the Lacoste family from three generations that make up the advisory board, and had owned 65 percent of Lacoste SA.

The 36-year-old Lacoste Dournel has been on the company’s board since 2005, is part of the second generation of the family shareholder structure and is a granddaughter of founder René Lacoste, a French tennis hero and businessman who created the Lacoste tennis shirt in 1929.

In a recent interview, Lacoste Dournel said it’s business as usual at the firm and her principal focus going forward would be to grow the brand’s women’s business and improve synergies between Lacoste’s manufacturing partners, she said.

Maus Frères, controlled by the Maus and Nordmann families, has been in business since 1902 and controls the Gant, Aigle and Parashop brands. Its retail banners include Manor department stores, hardware and DIY chain Jumbo and sports retailer Athleticum.

The group posted 2011 sales of 5.3 billion Swiss francs, or $6 billion at average exchange, and employs some 22,000 people.