By  on August 12, 2014

The pool of family-owned, high-end fashion firms may become shallower now that Bogner is up for sale.

The 82-year-old Munich-based company has hired Goldman Sachs to scout out a buyer for its $321 million business. Executives at Bogner’s corporate headquarters in Germany and at Goldman Sachs in Europe and New York declined comment.

News of a potential sale, first reported by Reuters, appeared to catch a few Bogner of America staffers off guard during a preview of the spring collection at the Bogner store in SoHo. In New York from the subsidiary’s Newport, Vermont, offices, the team highlighted a noticeably expanded line displayed with more of a fashion boutique spin than an après-ski one. Bogner of America’s senior vice president of sales and marketing Matthias Mack declined to address the potential sale but noted that stores have been responding to more stylish silhouettes.

Given the high demand among private equity firms in the U.S. as well as sovereign funds in Asia and the Middle East for luxury brands the company will “probably go at a decent price,” according to Milton Pedraza, chief executive officer of the Luxury Institute. “It’s a nice fashion brand, nice quality, but you have to look for it,” he said. “It’s definitely not top-of-mind with consumers and I don’t know that it has popped up on any of our surveys, when consumers are asked to name premium or luxury apparel brands.”

Pedraza also wondered whether Bogner is looking to sell the company entirely or just a stake. Opening more stores would be a key element to building the brand’s presence and awareness internationally, he said. “There are a lot of unknowns, but it has a good foundation,” Pedraza said.

The success of Bogner rival Moncler would also bode well for valuation.

As is often the case with privately owned family businesses, rumors of a potential sale have surfaced from time to time, according to two Vermont-based employees. Founded as a skiwear company in 1932 by Willy Bogner Sr., who competed in the 1936 Winter Olympics, the brand has expanded considerably into other categories, thanks to his son Willy Bogner Jr. Before offshore production wiped out U.S. manufacturing, the company had a Vermont factory that employed hundreds and a public road was built as a sign of welcome.

The younger Bogner, an Olympic skier in his own right in the 1960 and 1964 Winter Games, joined the company in his hometown of Munich in 1972. He expanded the business substantially beyond skiwear, following his father’s death in 1977. The brand is now sold in 35 countries with an export ratio of 50 percent. Bogner’s annual sales in 2012, the most recent figures available, were nearly $318 million and its consolidated revenues were $239 million at that time. Those tallies include Bogner’s licenses. Bogner oversees 800-plus employees worldwide, the bulk of whom are based in Germany.

Having run his own film production company since 1968, the younger Bogner always keeps his skis within reach. Known to be one of the most agile cameramen on skis, Bogner handled the skiing scenes in four James Bond movies including “The Spy Who Loved Me” as director and cinematographer. In addition to those two capacities, he has served as actor, producer and screenwriter in nearly 40 movies. Bogner was also responsible for the promotional film that helped Russia secure the Winter Games in Sochi in February.

Bogner, who is also a photographer, and his wife Sônia, a former model, met while working together on the set of a Bogner fashion shoot in 1972. After their marriage, Sônia Bogner became increasingly involved in the business. The Sônia Bogner label, which made its debut in 1992, is aimed at intercontinental women and is one of the strongest performing labels under the Bogner umbrella. Bogner’s friends Jerry Hall and Miriam Sachs modeled her signature fashion label in the brand’s first ad campaign.

There are 84 Bogner stores worldwide — 17 of which the company owns, 58 franchised ones and nine outlet stores. In addition, the brand has 173 concept stores. Offerings include the Sônia Bogner label; Bogner skiwear, sportswear and activewear for women, men and children; Bogner Golf, and Fire + Ice. Jeans, men’s shirts, ski equipment, watches and shoes are among the brand’s licenses. In total, Bogner has 6,500 dealers, according to the company.

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