Byline: Rich Wilner

NEW YORK--After months of negotiations with several prospective buyers, Crystal Brands Inc. signed a definitive agreement Tuesday to sell its jewelry business to an investment group in a deal valued at about $70 million.
The group, formed by investors Richard Rainwater and Raymond Chambers and Chemical Venture Partners, wholly owned by Chemical Banking Corp., said current management would remain in place.
"The sale means we will be able to fix, build and grow all three brands--Monet, Trifari and Marvella--in all current distribution channels," Judy Harrison, president, of the jewelry division, said, putting to rest any speculation that one of the brands may be divested.
Harrison said the new owners were committed to making the brands much more visible and projecting the new company as innovative leaders. A new name for the company is expected to be chosen by late November.
Crystal Brands, reorganizing under Chapter 11 since Jan. 22, announced months ago it would sell its $170 million jewelry business to reorganize around its core Gant, Salty Dog and Izod brand sportswear. The sale of the jewelry business is subject to bankruptcy court approval. The company anticipates a Nov. 30 closing.
Chemical Venture Partners is a 10-year-old investment partnership with over $2 billion under management. Rainwater and Chambers are private investors..
Jim Kallman, a principal with Chemical Venture Partners, said the jewelry purchase was not the investment group's first foray into the apparel industry. He said the group is a substantial owner of Buster Brown Apparel, was an original investor in Gymboree and had a large stake in United Knitting before it sold the stake to Dyersburg.
At the same time, Crystal Brands has filed a joint plan of reorganization and disclosure statement in court, here. The plan calls for unsecured creditors to receive a pro rata share of 15 percent of the new common shares of Crystal Brands.
--Fairchild News Service

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