By  on October 2, 2009

LONDON — Hermès on Thursday said it has purchased the 20,000-square-foot building on New Bond Street that serves as Asprey’s global headquarters and flagship store.

Hermès, which according to London real estate sources paid 73 million pounds, or $117 million at current exchange, said the purchase was a “property investment,” and a spokeswoman denied the French brand was planning to purchase all of Asprey, quashing widespread speculation in the British press.

However, it’s still unclear when — or if — Hermès will move into the building. Asprey has a 35-year lease and plans to stay put.

“We welcome the new landlord, whom we understand to be a long-term real estate investor. Asprey has a multiyear lease at 167 New Bond Street and no plans to move, as this is its historic flagship store,” said John Rigas, executive chairman of Asprey International Limited.

“The store was recently refurbished and indeed, sales to date are ahead of last year, which of course makes us very pleased given the economic environment,” he added, although he did not give further details.

London real estate sources said the French luxury brand had been scouring central Mayfair for prime commercial property over the past few years. “They had been desperately on the hunt for a store,” said one source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Another real estate source said Hermès is now faced with the choice of buying Asprey out of its remaining lease, the price of which could not be confirmed at press time, or waiting more than three decades to move into the building.

Hermès declined further comment on the purchase.

The French brand has never had a major flagship in London. Instead, it has a clutch of stores spread across town, on New Bond Street, at the Royal Exchange in the City of London, and shop-in-shops at Harrods, Selfridges and Heathrow’s Terminal 5.

Asprey has been trading from New Bond Street since 1847, and owned the building at number 167 New Bond Street until 2005.

The store is made up of seven listed buildings, most of which were constructed in the 16th century. A&G Group, then the parent of the Asprey and Garrard brands, hired Norman Foster to design the new space and David Mlinaric to decorate it.

In April 2005, A&G sold the store to the Irish property group Quinlan Private for an estimated 55 million pounds, or $105 million at the time. It was a sale-and-leaseback deal, and Asprey was put on a long-term lease. A&G did the deal to raise cash at the height of London’s commercial property boom. A year later, A&G sold the Asprey business to Rigas’ Sciens Capital Management LLC and Plainfield Asset Management LLC.

A spokesman for Quinlan Private in Dublin declined to comment on the sale. Derek Quinlan, the founder of the company, is said to be having financial difficulties due to the drastic dip in commercial property prices since 2007.

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