NEW YORK — The field of potential bidders for Dockers appears to be narrowing, though officials at its parent firm, Levi Strauss & Co., denied Monday that a deal to sell the $1.4 billion brand had been completed.
“We’re still very much in the midst of our Dockers sale process,” a spokesman said. “It’s still a confidential process, so I’m not going to be able to comment on any specifics.”
He declined to discuss a report in the Wall Street Journal that investment concern Vestar Capital Partners and former Sun Apparel executive Eric Rothfeld had made a joint $800 million bid for the casual pants brand.
The Levi’s spokesman also declined to comment on when a deal might be reached, but he suggested it’s not likely a sale will happen soon.
“The process would be to reach a point at which you reach a purchase agreement with a potential buyer, and then there are several weeks that would unfold prior to being able to close the sale,” he said.
Vestar officials did not respond to repeated calls for comment. Rothfeld did not return calls, either.
This wouldn’t be the first time Vestar and Rothfeld teamed up. In the late Nineties, Vestar held a minority stake in Sun Apparel Group, with Rothfeld owning the rest of the firm. They sold Sun to Jones Apparel Group in 1998, and Rothfeld remained on board as president and chief executive officer of the Sun division through 2001.
Observers called the partnership logical.
“They’ll squeeze the Levi’s cultural fat from it,” said Isaac Lagnado, president of the consulting firm Tactical.org. “They can clean it up and eventually sell it.”
Consultant Andrew Jassin, of Jassin-O’Rourke Group, said it would be “much more manageable” for an investment concern to work with one person on a deal of this kind, rather than trying to share ownership with a publicly traded corporation.
Sources said there appeared to be few other companies left that were interested in buying the brand. Dockers’ large size — last year it had $1 billion in direct sales and another $360 million in sales of licensed products — had ruled out acquisition by all but the biggest apparel companies.
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