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Kellwood Adds Briggs Brand

Kellwood Co. has purchased Briggs New York, a $200 million moderate sportswear firm, adding to its deep portfolio of brands.

NEW YORK — Acquisition hungry Kellwood Co. added another brand to its portfolio Tuesday, buying moderate pants and skirts maker Briggs New York Corp., which had sales of $200 million last year.

Hal Upbin, chairman, chief executive officer and president of Kellwood, a $2.3 billion apparel conglomerate firm, said he has long admired the 30-year-old Briggs firm as a leading bottoms manufacturer. Kellwood’s two existing moderate brands are Sag Harbor and Koret. Upbin declined to comment on the purchase price.

“The company is a national brand, well thought of by the consumer and the retailer because of the fit, price, quality and freshness,” Upbin said. “Initially, we were approached through an intermediary several years ago and often in these matters of acquisitions, it takes time to get to know each other better. [This] has really been off and on over a period of years.”

Richard Rosenberg will continue to serve as president and chief executive officer of the privately held, family-owned Briggs, while Leon Rosenberg will continue as chief operating officer. The company will operate as a stand-alone business within Kellwood’s women’s wear division.

“The most important thing is the acquisition reaffirms Kellwood’s strategic commitment to be the dominant player in the moderate market,” said Stephen Ruzow, president of women’s wear at Kellwood. “It’s quite a complimentary fit into Kellwood’s distribution.”

Briggs’ founder Leon Rosenberg said the buy is positive for his firm, which is based in Boston.

“We find our business has been growing very substantially and it requires a company of Kellwood’s size to be helpful with the sourcing and the financial end of the business,” Rosenberg said. “Also for our employees, they are extremely pleased and more secure being linked with a resource like Kellwood rather than still [operating] as a family business. [The reality] is, for many of the apparel companies that are smaller and not on the matrix, it’s very hard for them.”

While Ruzow said Briggs will continue to focus on its strength in moderate pants and skirts, he plans to look for ways to extend the brand into other products, as well as developing licensing opportunities in areas such as accessories, shoes and coats.

“We just don’t think the brand has been exploited at all and we’ll be looking for major product extensions,” he added.

Kellwood’s last acquisition came in June, when it bought Gerber Childrenswear. Today, the firm’s portfolio spans about 20 brands and 300 trademarks. In addition to Sag Harbor and Koret, they include David Meister, Democracy, David Dart, Sangria and Jax, and licenses with Emme, Bill Burns, Nautica men’s dress shirts and Izod women’s sportswear.