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Duck Head Brand Sold

Prospect Brands acquires name with Cival War roots.

Duck Head is getting a new lease on life.

This story first appeared in the November 7, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Prospect Brands LLC, a partnership between Omaha-based private equity firm McCarthy Capital and former apparel executive Tom Nolan, purchased the venerable brand for an undisclosed sum this week and plans to relaunch the label next year.

The brand traces its history back to 1865 when two Nashville brothers, George and Joe O’Bryan, turned duck — heavy canvas used for Army tents — into sturdy work pants and overalls. The company’s pants with their mallard logo became a wardrobe staple and were especially popular in the South. The brand changed hands several times over the years and was sold to Goody’s, a Southern retailer, in 2003. The chain went out of business in 2009 and the Duck Head trademark was auctioned off and purchased by a group headed by Virginia investor Ross Sternheimer.

Nolan, president and chief executive officer of Prospect Brands, said he sought out Sternheimer and “called him out of the blue” about acquiring the brand. After several months of negotiations, Sternheimer decided to sell.

Prospect’s plan for Duck Head is still being formulated, but Nolan anticipates a soft launch for spring and a “more meaningful” presentation for fall. In addition to pants, the brand is expected to offer knitwear, denim, wovens, sweaters, outerwear, T-shirts, headwear and accessories.

“There aren’t many brands out there who can say they started around the Civil War,” he said. “It has heritage, authenticity and a real Southern sensibility. Kids think it’s cool and older people remember it. We’re just trying to be good stewards.”

Prospect Brands also owns Gerbing, a wearable technology outerwear brand that specializes in heated apparel for the outdoor market.