About five years after Marvin Traub helped sell Ellen Tracy to Liz Claiborne Inc., Traub and his new business partners are hoping to fulfill the vision Claiborne had for the bridge brand at the time but never achieved.
Radius Partners LLC, Windsong Brands LLC, Barry Sternlicht and Traub bought Ellen Tracy for $42.3 million — a substantial discount from the reported $180 million Claiborne spent to acquire the bridge label from Herbert Gallen and Linda Allard. Together the buyers are setting up two companies, a holding side that will own the label and an operating side to produce the sportswear, creating a platform from which they can acquire other women's apparel businesses.
"We wouldn't be doing this if we didn't think we could get it back to its heyday," Traub said. "When I was at Bloomingdale's, Ellen Tracy was our leading supplier in bridge, and when the brand was originally sold to Liz, they said they wanted to take it to a much higher level. We can take it to that higher level."
Of course, the 59-year-old brand is worse for wear since Claiborne bought it. Ellen Tracy did about $171 million in volume at the time and was the leading resource in the booming bridge department. The slide to about $100 million today was propelled by the weakening of the traditional bridge market, product problems and recent economic woes.
The new buyers have several plans for the brand: adding Ellen Tracy full-priced retail stores, expanding internationally and launching a national marketing campaign. First, though, they must hire a designer, after George Sharp resigned last month to join St. John as executive vice president of design, as well as a business head. They said they are already in talks with several candidates. They plan to keep on "the lion's share" of the 77 core brand employees and 100-plus retail outlet employees. Ellen Tracy interim president Ann Bukawyn, a licensing veteran who has been at Claiborne since the Nineties and was installed as interim president in June during the vendor's restructuring, likely will take a new role at Claiborne, sources said.
The expansion, including a New York flagship, likely will coincide with spring 2009, the first season under the new owners, after they feel the product is where it should be.Cleaning up the back office also will be a priority.
Sternlicht said they have the sourcing capabilities established. He and William Sweedler — chief executive officer of Windsong Brands LLC — have teamed up before, investing in moderate brand Caribbean Joe and denim resource Joe's Jeans.
The consortium had been negotiating the deal for the last four months, after originally bidding on five of the brands, including Dana Buchman, Laundry, Prana and C&C California. "Originally we'd looked at all the brands, and we'd seen Ellen Tracy as the crown jewel," said Sweedler "With Dana Buchman, we were not sure we wanted to be competing with two brands in the same space, though."
Claiborne decided last month to license Dana Buchman to Kohl's, where it will become a moderate resource, and they predict that Ellen Tracy will benefit from eliminating the competition of a fellow traditional bridge brand.
After four long months of negotiations, they also got a deal, according to analysts. Claiborne sold substantially all of Ellen Tracy's assets and liabilities for a $27.3 million cash payment, subject to inventory adjustment payable at closing, and a contingent cash payment of up to $15 million based on brand performance through 2012, while Claiborne will retain approximately $8.2 million in net working capital, excluding inventory.
"Most of [Claiborne's] deals have been for inventory value," said Brad Stephens, a retail analyst for Morgan Keegan & Co. Inc. "They've been giving the brands away."
My character, Dinah Madani, is just the coolest, [most] badass woman imaginable," says @amberroserevah. The actress stars in @marvel's newest series on @netflix, @thepunisher. To prepare for her role, Revah sat down with Homeland agents to get a real sense of with Dinah's day-to-day life is really like. Read our full interview on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
A scene from the 91st annual @macys Thanksgiving Day Parade. The parade, which boasts 50 million TV viewers and 3.5 million on-site spectators, is considered one of the largest and most watched parades in the world. (📷: Jason Szenes/EPA-REX)
The circus came to @bloomingdales 59th Street on Tuesday night and lit up Lexington Avenue with acrobatic dancers, death-defying knife throwing, sword swallowing and aerial acts with no net. The 45 minutes of theatrics built up to unveiling the holiday windows depicting @swarovski crystal-encrusted circus pieces and scenes from “The Greatest Showman” – songs from the soundtrack included. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: Joshua Scott)
The psychedelic fashion that pervaded the ’60s is back with an exhibit at the @museumofcityny. “Mode New York: Fashion Takes a Trip” chronicles the changing styles from 1960 through 1973 and features designers such as @ysl, @oscardelarenta and more. The exhibition, which is on display through April 1, is organized into four periods: First Lady Fasion, Youthquake, New Bohemia and New Nonchalance. Pictured here is model Pat Bardonella during the Garvey Day Parade in 1968. (📷: @kwamebphoto) #wwdeye #wwdfashion
“People should be a lot more honest in expressing both the dark and light of themselves. We need to give each other the space to do that because it’s the only way we can grow and evolve,” says @noelwells of her new film “Mr. Roosevelt,” which is largely based on her own struggles. Unexpectedly leaving @nbcsnl in 2014 after just one season, Wells felt set back in her self-esteem and career trajectory. She quickly refocused her energy to more personal projects, which led to the completion of “Mr. Roosevelt.” Read the rest of WWD’s interview with the “Master of None” actress on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
@barbrastreisand is giving fans a chance to see her perform up close in a new concert series, which makes its debut on @Netflix today. From behind-the-scenes takes to her concert performance in Miami last December, the two-hour streaming special captures Streisand in her element. Pictured here is the singer/actress photographed for WWD in 1963. (📷: Palmieri Tony) #wwdeye #wwdarchive
@chanel and @pharrell dropped what’s being dubbed as the world’s most exclusive sneakers yesterday. The Adidas Originals NMD Hu, which Williams designed in collaboration with Chanel and @adidasoriginals, has a waiting list of over 120K people who pre-registered online at chanelatcolette.fr –– and only 500 pairs are on sale. The singer predicted the resale value of the shoes could reach $40K. Read the full interview on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdfashion (📷: Dominique Maître)
@imanshumpert is diving deeper into his creative endeavors and relaunching his clothing line, Post 90s, and is helping to raise money for the hurricane victims in St. Maarten with a jersey he’s designed with his brother. The Cleveland Cavaliers player talked to WWD about kneeling during the national anthem, working with fashion brands and how he wants to be more than an @nba player. Read the interview on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: George Chinese)