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."
Exclusive: Nicola Formichetti is parting ways with @diesel after nearly four years. Formichetti, who served as Lady Gaga’s stylist in 2009, joined Diesel in 2013 as creative and artistic director. His first show debuted in Venice with a show held at the Venetian Arsenal. #wwdfashion #wwdnews
The polo shirt - an icon of preppy style - is roaring back into fashion in many creative guises, like this A-line polyester top from @carven, worn with @31philliplim cotton and elastane pants. Designers stretched a fashion classic into all kinds of new permutations this season. See how @mayteallende styled the preppy trend on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📸 : Kinya)
(Market Editors: @andrew_shang and @elmercer, Makeup: @amandawilsonmakeup using @fentybeauty, Hair: @gonn24, Model: @bara_holotova at @women360mgmt)
“I do like period [projects] a lot because I like creating those worlds, a world that is different from today," costume designer Mark Bridges said about the '50s British couture featured in @phantomthread. Bridges created the overall aesthetic and individual fashion looks for the film, which stars Daniel Day-Lewis, Lesley Manville and Vicky Krieps. Pictured here is a gown he designed for Krieps who plays Alma – the love interest of Day-Lewis' character, Reynolds Woodcock. #wwdfashion
@prada is embracing the holiday season with a series of short movies about the art of gift-giving. "The Postman's Gifts", which was directed by American filmmaker Autumn de Wilde, focuses on the brand's signature Prada Galleria bag and features Elijah Wood as the postman. In the first two episodes, Wood's delivers the iconic bag to @emmaroberts, who plays herself as a movie star, and Sasha Frolova. #wwdfashion
“I think I never met the person while we were working,” Vicky Krieps said of Daniel Day-Lewis, who she plays the love interest of in “Phantom Thread.” Day-Lewis remained perennially in character, so much so that she feels she’s just meeting him now. “It’s interesting to see how different he is in real life to the character,” Krieps said. WWD sat down with the 34-year-old actress to talk about her new role in the period film, which brings the fifties’ gender dynamics into the mix. Read more on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @lexieblacklock)
@gucci has expanded its “Places” project to include six new cities. The initiative, which was first unveiled in July, aims to invite people to explore inspirational locations for the brand. On the list is the Biblioteca Angelica library in Rome pictured here. See the other five new venues on WWD.com. #wwdfashion (📷: @massimo_listri_official)
#ad From tools to lashes, WWD rounded up wellness and beauty products guaranteed to take your skin care and makeup routines to the next level in 2018. Follow along as @laceandleatherbyelyse, @ashnfashn and @elleisalwayshere experiment with these products on their Instagram profiles and blogs. #NewYearBetterYou
Blogger @camilacoelho is one of the fastest growing beauty influencers around the world. The bilingual blogger has worked with brands like @revolve Beauty, @dior, @louisvuitton and more and has an Earned Media Value of $34,338,441, according to @tribedynamics. But Coelho isn’t the only influencer making a major impact — head to WWD.com to see the other fastest-growing influencers in six key global markets. #beautyfridays (📷: @zefashioninsider)