By  on September 29, 2008

One down, one to go. With the agreement to sell its Waverly Brands home furnishings operation to Iconix Brand Group Inc. for $26 million in cash, plus the assumption of future liabilities, cash-strapped NexCen Brands Inc. is left to find a buyer for its Bill Blass business to complete the planned divestiture of the non-franchise businesses. The Waverly deal is expected to close within 30 days. NexCen said it will use the proceeds to pay off the $21.3 million in outstanding debt of Waverly and the balance, after deducting transaction costs, to pay down debt associated with NexCen’s Bill Blass business. For Iconix, Waverly presents synergies with its Pillowtex operation, which the licensing and brand management firm bought in 2007 for $231 million in cash and up to $15 million in contingency payments. Iconix is projecting $7 million in royalty payments from the Waverly business over the next 12 months. NexCen bought Waverly for $36.5 million in May 2007. Neil Cole, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Iconix, told WWD his firm will “continue to be opportunistic in this environment” as it searches for more iconic brands, whether fashion or home, to add to its portfolio. The difficult economy could aid the search. “There’ll be more opportunities as the environment gets tougher,” he said. Waverly, Iconix’s fifth home brand, gives the firm a foothold in new categories, such as paint. Kenneth Hall, ceo of NexCen, said the Waverly sale “is just another confirmation to our lender that the company is continuing to execute under our revised strategic business plan.” As for the Blass brand, Hall said the company has received interest from multiple parties, all of whom are in the process of completing due diligence on the business. He noted that, as with Waverly, the buyer would presumably acquire Blass without assuming any existing Blass debt. While no specific time frame has been set, Hall said that the “hope is to have this closed in the near term.” As reported, at least one international bidder and the investment firm Angelo Gordon are believed to be eyeing Blass. One banking source familiar with the process said that not all who have peeked at the Blass books are interested in the couture line. According to an industry source, however, other potential bidders, including Angelo Gordon, could be weighing a bid that does include the couture operation. WWD first reported that Waverly and Blass would be put up for sale, and probably sold in that order, in May after NexCen said it had failed to disclose that $30 million of $70 million borrowed to acquire Great American Cookies needed to be paid down on Oct. 17. In August, the company said Robert D’Loren had resigned as ceo and that it had restructured its bank facility with BTMU Capital Corp.

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