By  on April 10, 2007

PARIS – Now it’s cool to wear sneakers to a Gucci show.

PPR, the French retailer that owns Gucci Group, on Tuesday said it had purchased a controlling stake in Puma and that it would make a “friendly” offer to buy out the rest of the German activewear firm’s shares.

PPR said it paid 1.4 billion euros, or $1.85 billion at current exchange - equivalent to 330 euros a share - to Mayfair, the private equity firm of German billionaires Gunter and Daniela Herz, for their 27.1 percent share of Puma. PPR now will offer 330 euros, or $435.60, a share for the rest of Puma’s publicly traded shares in a deal that values Puma at 5.3 billion euros, or $6.99 billion.

Francois-Henri Pinault, chairman and chief executive officer of PPR, told a news conference here the French group aimed to make Puma the “world leader” among sport lifestyle brands, a sector rife with stiff competition from the likes of Adidas and Nike.

Pinault said the transaction came at a time when more consumers were “mixing and matching” luxury items with less expensive pieces and he said Puma fit well with PPR’s stable of brands, which spans from Yves Saint Laurent and Boucheron to Balenciaga, Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen, with whom Puma already has worked in a design collaboration.

“This is a favorable moment for the convergence of sport and fashion,” said Pinault, adding PPR planned to speed Puma’s growth by developing more directly owned shops, accelerating the number of collections and extending product categories.

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