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Nike Inks Deal to Sell Cole Haan to Apax

The $570 million deal frees the sneaker giant to focus on core brands.

Nike Inc. has signed a $570 million agreement to sell Cole Haan to private equity firm Apax Partners.

The sneaker giant bought Cole Haan for $95 million in cash and debt in 1988, but wanted to divest the business, along with Umbro, to focus on its core Nike, Jordan, Converse and Hurley brands. Iconix Brand Group Inc. agreed to buy Umbro for $225 million last month.

Alex Pellegrini, a partner on Apax’s retail and consumer team, said Cole Haan has broad consumer appeal and room to grow both in the U.S. and internationally.

Apax declined to comment on its specific plans for the brand before the deal closes, but it’s clear the industry is chasing Michael Kors Holdings Ltd. — an accessories-heavy fashion business with accessible prices that is now valued at more than $9.7 billion.

Cole Haan is sold through department stores as well as 108 U.S. stores and 68 shops abroad. Revenues rose 3 percent to $535 million for the fiscal year ended May 31. The New York-based brand was founded in 1928 and sells men’s and women’s footwear, outerwear and accessories.

For the next leg of the brand’s history, Apax is teaming up with Jack Boys, the former chief executive officer of Converse, who helped grow that brand’s sales to over $1 billion from $150 million.

Apax manages $35 billion and is a familiar name in fashion having previously invested in Tommy Hilfiger and worked with Phillips-Van Heusen Corp. (now PVH Corp.) in its acquisition of Calvin Klein.

The Cole Haan deal is expected to close early next year. Jefferies & Co. advised Apax on the transaction and provided financing.

The full terms were not disclosed, but investment bankers have noted that private equity firms are able to borrow money very cheaply as they buy into businesses.