NEW YORK — Cultivating Theory into a global brand has been a goal for Andrew Rosen since he and Elie Tahari started the company in 1997, and the contemporary brand’s sale to two Japanese companies Tuesday is a major step toward achieving that goal.

Link International, Theory’s Japanese licensee, and Fast Retailing Co. Ltd. — the multibillion-dollar retailer and owner of the 590-unit Uniqlo brand in Japan and the U.K. — have each purchased a 44.5 percent stake in Theory. The remaining 11 percent is held by Rosen, while Tahari has sold his stake in the firm.

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