Pegasus Capital Advisors has sold a majority stake in the luxury accessories brand Leiber to Schottenstein Stores Corp., which owns a majority of Filene's Basement and DSW Shoe Warehouse, and is the largest shareholder of American Eagle Outfitters Inc.
Financial terms were not disclosed.
Mary Gleason, president of Schottenstein's luxury brand group, has been named Leiber's new president. Frank Zambrelli, who was president and creative director, has left the company to focus on his own Banfi Zambrelli show line. Geraldine Morley, vice president of design for five years, has been promoted to creative director.
Although the acquisition might raise questions about whether Schottenstein will swing Leiber to a more mass strategy, Gleason insisted that the brand will maintain its status as a U.S. luxury label.
"What's unique about the Leiber brand is that it's at the highest level of luxury," Gleason said. "The great thing about Schottenstein is that they are enamored with the luxury business and think Leiber is a jewel. We intend to keep it at the highest level and support the group that's here.
"The majority of people in the company have been with the company, and we feel very strongly that we'll keep it at that level," she said. "Obviously that's our direction. These businesses are a separate entity and we think there is a tremendous opportunity to expand."
Leiber is the second company in Schottenstein Stores' growing luxury group. In 2006, the company bought the women's apparel and accessories firm Adrienne Vittadini with intentions to pursue the category. Gleason declined comment on speculation that Schottenstein was looking to buy Bill Blass from troubled NexCen Brands Inc. with Arnold Simon, president and chief executive officer of Designer Licensing Holdings, which has the Bill Blass jeanswear license and owns 10 percent of the Bill Blass trademark. Simon declined comment.
NexCen bought the Blass business in February 2007 for $54.6 million.
Ben Kraner, senior vice president of Schottenstein Stores didn't return phone calls seeking comment, and Robert D'Loren, president and ceo of NexCen, couldn't be reached.
Leiber, which until a couple years ago was named Judith Leiber, after its founder, is known for its crystal studded evening bags and day bags with exotic skins. The 45-year-old firm also has lines of fine jewelry, fur, footwear, eyewear and fragrance.Gleason said the company will keep its existing licenses intact — fragrance, jewelry and eyewear — and will determine what its plans are for its fur and shoe collections, which are produced in small quantities in-house.
"I am a big believer in going to experts in categories," Gleason said. "I believe in licensing. It's a great opportunity for us but it's hard to find partners at this level. I am interested in finding partners."
Leiber has a network of signature stores, in addition to distribution in upscale retailers, such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus. In February, Leiber signed agreements to grow its store network and distribution into India and the Middle East. The company said Thursday it would open a store in Dubai next month in the new, high-end Wafi Mall.
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