Iconix Brand Group is said to be in discussions to acquire Lee Cooper.
The European denim brand is being sold by private equity firm Sun European Partners, an affiliate of Sun Capital Partners in the U.S. The sale process is in an advanced stage, according to an investment source. Another financial contact said a deal could be completed in the next few weeks.
Sun Capital acquired the label in 2005 from Matalan PLC. Emerisque Brands and The 180 Group at the time were coinvestors, but have since exited their positions. Lee Cooper, based in Luxembourg, no longer manufactures any products. Sun European owns the license to the brand.
Representatives at Sun European declined comment, as did executives at Iconix.
If discussions don’t pan out between Iconix and Sun European, the latter might have a backup suitor in Authentic Brands Group, which is said to have taken a look at Lee Cooper. Both Iconix and Authentic Brands are brand-management firms. They acquire the intellectual property assets of brands and then license out the name, but don’t own any of the operating or manufacturing elements typical of most brand operators.
Executives at Authentic Brands declined comment.
Authentic Brands and Iconix have eyed the same IP assets before, most recently was last fall when men’s wear firm HMX Group showed signs of financial distress prior to filing for bankruptcy in October 2012. Authentic Brands won that round, first as the stalking horse bidder in the bankruptcy court-approved auction, and then as the ultimate winner of the auction.
In the case of Lee Cooper, market sources said the two have made preliminary offers for the name known as Europe’s oldest denim brand. Iconix is said to be the more aggressive of the two firms in the pursuit for Lee Cooper.
What isn’t quite clear is how much Lee Cooper might be worth in terms of valuation. Sources believe that a fair valuation is in the $50 million to $60 million range.
Founded in 1908 as workwear apparel firm M Cooper Overalls, the brand in the past aligned itself with major music groups, such as The Rolling Stones and The Kinks in the Sixties. As a result, the line has evolved into a British rock ’n’ roll-inspired collection.
Two-thirds of its sales in Europe are in jeans, according to a financial source. In the Middle East, more than 60 percent of its sales are in T-shirts. Among denim brands, Lee Cooper is believed to be the largest-selling jeans brand by volume in the Middle East. One financial source said that the bulk of its business is currently in that territory, although the brand is sold in more than 88 countries.
Last fall, Lee Cooper opened its first freestanding store in Japan, in Tokyo, operated by its Japanese licensing partner. Mac House, Lee Cooper’s retail partner in Japan also distributes the line in over 350 stores.
Lee Cooper as a brand is believed to have a volume of about $400 million in retail sales, with much of that from the Middle Eastern countries. That’s a drop from the $600 million in estimated sales volume in 2008 when the brand celebrated its 100th birthday.
One problem with the brand, given its extensive licensing structure already in place, is whether there’s any more room for growth. One source noted that, as an example, the brand might be hard to bring successfully to the U.S.
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
“It’s passion that helps get anybody to a certain point and it’s what’s propelled me,” said Kith founder @ronniefieg, one of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables who are changing the face of retail, fashion and beauty. Fieg, who opened a Manhattan flagship on October 7, began his career at age 13 as a stock boy and salesman for footwear chain David Z. “I think staying true to [my] beliefs, hard work and passion have gotten me to where [Kith] is today.” See the rest of the 40 at WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
25-year-old @samweaving is about to break out this fall, starring in Netflix’s horror film “The Babysitter,” fittingly out today on Friday the 13th. That’s not the only place you’ll be seeing her, though — Weaving’s got a role Showtime’s “SMILF” and another alongside Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Though she’s got a full plate at the moment, there’s one role she’s got her eye on: Marilyn Monroe. “I’m a little too young at the moment, but it’s on my bucket list,” the actress told WWD (📷: @dandoperalski) #wwdeye
BFF's Poppy Jamie and Suki Waterhouse celebrated the launch of their bag line Pop x Suki at Nordstrom last night. "The line is really about our friendship, and how we are so different but complement each other," said Waterhouse. 👯 (📷: Katie Jones) #wwdeye
After designing the new @louisvuitton and @bulgariofficial flagships and a @chanelofficial boutique opening in Japan, @petermarinoarchitect has another project on his plate: The Lobster Club. Located in the Seagram Building, it’s the famed architect’s first restaurant project in New York, serving up modern Japanese brasserie-style cuisine. Bronze hues, bespoke material detailing, blush and chartreuse tones and a heavy emphasis on Picasso can be seen throughout. Mark your calendars for Nov. 1 for the much-anticipated opening. (📷: @clint_spaulding) #wwdeye