NEW YORK — Lawrence Stroll stepped down as co-chairman and director of Tommy Hilfiger Corp. to concentrate on his new babies, Asprey and Garrard.
"It’s been a wonderful 13 and a half years since acquiring Tommy. I feel I’ve done all I can do," said Stroll, 43, who was reached in London. "I want to move into different pastures. I bought Asprey & Garrard two years ago and am enjoying it tremendously. I thought it was the right time."
He said the A&G Group, which he bought with Silas Chou, was taking more time than he originally thought. "It’s London-based and it’s a lot easier for me," said Stroll, who resides with his family there.
Stroll said he made the decision to leave about nine months ago and apprised his partners. He said there were no disagreements, the parting is amicable, and he remains friendly with them. Sources said Stroll has been less involved with the Hilfiger business as A&G has started to take up an increasing amount of his time.
Asked if he believes there’s growth left in Hilfiger, Stroll said, "There’s absolutely opportunity in Tommy. You won’t see the growth levels of five to six years ago, it’s too large a company. You can only have a certain amount of distribution without lowering one’s standards."
Stroll said he will retain his shares in Hilfiger. He and Chou each own 1.1 percent of the company.
"I think we put together a fantastic team. All four partners made an equal contribution to our enormous success," said Stroll, referring to Tommy Hilfiger, honorary chairman, Joel Horowitz, chief executive officer, and Chou, who continues to serve as co-chairman.
Although sources consider Chou the genius and innovator behind Hilfiger’s remarkable growth, they credit Stroll with making some major contributions to the company. With a product design and marketing bent, Stroll spearheaded many of Hilfiger’s ventures, including international distribution, in which he was well versed, having had a previous partnership with Polo/Ralph Lauren in Canada and Europe.
Sources said Stroll has a difficult personality, but the back-and-forth banter between he and Chou allowed great ideas to come out of the Hilfiger business. They said Stroll was very aggressive when it came to product offerings, which was a boon to the growth of the business.Stroll brought Polo to Canada in the late 1970s, and in the early 1980s, became the Polo licensee for all of Europe. He and Chou, whose fathers were friendly, became partners in Polo in Europe in the mid-1980s. In 1989, an affiliate of Novel Enterprises, owned by Chou and Stroll, acquired the majority ownership of Tommy Hilfiger Inc. and the licensing agreement with Mojan Murjani was terminated. They took Hilfiger public in 1992, followed by three secondary offerings. These offerings paid off handsomely for the partners. At one point, the partners had netted a combined $325 million on an original investment of $206,000.
While building Hilfiger, Stroll and Chou engineered some key moves, such as the $1.15 billion acquisition in 1998 of two of its sister companies: Pepe Jeans USA Inc. and Tommy Hilfiger Canada Inc. Stroll’s family owned 100 percent of Hilfiger Canada, and Pepe Jeans was held by associates of Stroll and Chou, Hilfiger and Horowitz.
In 2001, Hilfiger Corp. also completed the acquisition of its former European licensee, T.H. International NV for $200 million in cash. Based in Amsterdam, its principal operating subsidiary was Tommy Hilfiger Europe BV (and its subsidiary, Tommy Europe). Tommy Europe was controlled by Apparel International Holdings Ltd., whose owners were Chou, Stroll, Hilfiger and Horowitz.
Independent of Hilfiger, Stroll and Chou bought Asprey & Garrard in July 2000 from previous owner Prince Jefri Bolkiah, the younger brother of the Sultan of Brunei. They aim to transformthe A&G Group to compete with such luxury firms as Hermés, Louis Vuitton, Bulgari, Gucci and Tiffany, and eventually go for an initial public offering. "Our plan is to build a business. If going public down the road is sensible, we’ll entertain that, but it’s not in the cards today," said Stroll on Monday.
Although Stroll kept a low profile and preferred to keep his name out of the press, he has been busy on many fronts. Over the past several years, he and Chou have been actively seeking acquisitions, both for Hilfiger and themselves, and have made unsuccessful bids for various companies, namely Calvin Klein Inc., Brooks Brothers and Valentino. Asked if he’s looking to make any more acquisitions, Stroll told WWD, "I’m not looking, but if the right opportunity crossed my plate, I wouldn’t say no." He said he could make an acquisition with Chou, or "it could be myself alone."Stroll said that currently he is more involved than Chou in the A&G Group, which generates $75 million in volume.
"Silas is not as heavily involved in A&G as I am. Now I’m involved in the design of product and the marketing function. That’s my side of the contribution to our partnership. Silas is more involved in the financial, distribution and accounting" said Stroll.
Executives were surprised Monday with the news that Stroll was departing Hilfiger. Some sources said Stroll’s role at Hilfiger was unclear and that he could be disruptive, late for meetings and unfocused. Others called him shrewd, and someone who "lucked out" by partnering with Chou.
"As co-chairman and in looking at the big picture, Lawrence was very instrumental and very important," said John Koroukas, president of sportswear at Warnaco Group, who previously worked with Stroll at Pepe Jeans and Hilfiger. "He was extremely involved, particularly in the earlier years. He had great eye and a great opinion of trends. He was very strong, very aggressive and very opinionated. He’s a real cornerstone of the organization."
EXCLUSIVE: @tomford is opening its first-ever beauty store. The boutique, which opens November 20 in London’s Covent Gardens, was designed with the over-the-top glam Ford is known for. Read the full story on WWD.com, link in bio. #wwdbeauty #wwdnews (📷: Simon Wagner) #TomFordBeauty
New York-based DJ @harleyvnewton threw a party to celebrate the holiday collection of her dress and pajama line @hvn at the Ladurée Beverly Hills. It Girls @katebosworth, @rashidajones and more joined in on the fun, which included cocktails, croque monsieur sandwiches and a photo booth. #wwdfashion (📷: Owen Kolasinski/BFA.com)
For the holidays, @Burberry partnered with 20-year-old artist @blondeymccoy on a series of three outdoor murals in downtown Manhattan. The murals are McCoy’s interpretation of a Christmas eve party, the idea of charity and the spirit of family. His third mural, pictured here, is the most personal. The image depicts McCoy’s grandparents and father in London’s Trafalgar Square in the Seventies. “My work often features lots of sentimental objects.” #wwdeye
For spring 2018, designers applied bold colors and cartoonish motifs on everything from sneakers and belts to key chains. See all the top men’s accessories trends on WWD.com. #wwdtrends (📷: George Chinsee; Prop Styling by @rnasti; Market Editor: @luiscampuzano)
The @dior-sponsored @guggenheim international gala pre-party has a history of drawing cool-girl musical acts to serenade the crowd –– and last night was no exception. @haimtheband performed songs both new and old, and lured a star-studded audience with the likes of Rebecca Hall, Kate Mara, Mamoudou Athie and more. #wwdeye (📷: @lexieblacklock)
In a partnership between the @metopera and the @englishnationalopera, “Marnie” was born. The opera, with costumes sponsored by @mrporterlive, is an adaptation of the 1961 thriller by Winston Graham. Arianne Phillips, who created the costumes, is no rookie: She’s styled Madonna for her tours and created costumes for a myriad of films in the past. Read WWD’s interview with Phillips, where she talks about her inspiration for the opera’s costumes on WWD.com #wwdfashion
@barneysnyc took a different approach to their holiday windows this year. Instead of Christmas decor, Barneys tapped @thehaasbrothers to tell a story of positivity, gratitude and inclusivity via heartwarming silliness and humor. “It’s about kids and it’s about coming together and being family and loving each other,” said Simon Haas. #wwdfashion (📷: @joshuascottphoto)
Beauty influencer @kandeejohnson makes her foray into hair care with a collaboration with @ogx_beauty — making it the first time that OGX has teamed up for a product creation. The collab includes shampoos and conditioners in three scents. At 39 and a mom, Johnson is a different profile than the emerging social media stars, but is considered one of the pioneers of the digital beauty influencer world. Read WWD’s interview with her on wwd.com, including the strangest beauty product she’s ever tried #wwdbeauty