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."
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews
“Stranger Things” is getting a new cast member for season 2. Meet @sadiesink_, the 15-year-old who will be joining the Netflix series for its new season. You may recognize her from “The Glass Castle” with Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson, but the Texas native’s next role goes in an entirely different direction. She describes her character, Max, as “a rough and tumble skater girl [who] becomes friends with the boys at school.” The second season debuts on October 27. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdeye
Amid the Harvey Weinstein controversy, there’s another sector that’s being put under the spotlight for sexual abuse: the modeling industry. While rumors about abuse and sexual harassment of female and male models — and the photographers, agents and others who perpetrated it — have circulated within the fashion world for years, model @cameronrussell started posting stories from models on Instagram last week about abusive situations they’ve encountered — from sexual harassment and molestation to attempted rape. Over 75 have weighed in so far. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews
To celebrate its 16th anniversary, @dylanscandybar tapped designers and celebrities to create mosaics out of candy. The mosaics will be auctioned off to support the philanthropic cause of each participant’s choice. Pictured here is the mural created by @aliceandolivia's Stacey Bendet. For a first look at some of the other artwork being unveiled tonight, go to WWD.com. #wwdeye
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
@eyeswoon blogger Athena Calderone debuted her first-ever cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food. Pictured here are her miso glazed carrots from the book. Get the recipe on WWD.com. (📷: @johnny_miller_) #wwdeye