Innerwear Firms Bendon, Pleasure State Merge

The company will remain known as Bendon and continue to be headquartered in New Zealand.

SYDNEY — New Zealand intimate apparel manufacturer Bendon and its Australian rival Pleasure State said Tuesday they have merged their operations.

This story first appeared in the August 24, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Pleasure State co-founder and Bendon’s chief executive officer of 15 months, Sydney-based Justin Davis-Rice, will lead the new company. Also on board is Bill Wavish, the former executive chairman of Australia’s Myer department store chain, who was recently appointed as nonexecutive chairman.

Financial details of the merger were not disclosed.

Founded in Auckland in 1947 and acquired by New Zealand entrepreneur Eric Watson’s Cullen Investments Ltd. in 2003, Bendon is the manufacturer/global licensee of seven intimate apparel brands, including Bendon, Fayreform, Elle Macpherson Intimates and Stella McCartney, with offices in Sydney, London, New York and Hong Kong, and sales in excess of 150 million New Zealand dollars, or $124.86 million.

According to a spokeswoman, the company will remain known as Bendon and continue to be headquartered in Auckland.

In a statement, Davis-Rice said the merger announcement is part of an “aggressive growth strategy” for the company.

He said, “Bendon’s size and scale make the company a dominant force in the Australasian intimate apparel industry. We believe the intimate apparel and swimwear market is ripe for consolidation, and we intend to capitalize on this opportunity.”

Watson, the co-founder of failed New Zealand finance company Hanover Finance, will retain an undisclosed Bendon stake. Watson’s special purpose acquisition company, Endeavour Acquisition Corp., completed a reverse merger with American Apparel in December 2007, before selling down its minority holding in 2009.

Founded in 2004 by Davis-Rice and former Elle Macpherson Intimates designer Kay Cohen, Pleasure State is distributed in Australasia, Europe, the United Arab Emirates and the U.S. The company’s hero product is the BioFit uplift bra, which was launched into the U.S. market in 2005 as a Victoria’s Secret exclusive.

Bendon currently has five stores and 11 outlets in Australia and 14 stores and 16 outlets in New Zealand.

The Pleasure State merger announcement follows a period of turmoil for Bendon, which has undergone numerous executive reshuffles since 2008, as New Zealand became one of the first developed economies to fall into recession.