NEW YORK — Accessory Network Group has acquired the rights to the Kooba brand from private equity firm Swander Pace Capital.

This story first appeared in the February 1, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Kooba was bought by Swander Pace in 2007. The amount ANG paid was not disclosed. Abe Chehebar, chief executive officer of ANG, said the company was approached by Sage Group, an investment banking firm, on behalf of Kooba. “I’ve been following Kooba since they started, and I expressed a very high level of interest,” Chehebar told WWD exclusively.

ANG also owns Ghurka, a men’s leather goods company. Chehebar said, “I like Kooba because of their recognition in the marketplace. They’re a respected leather goods brand.…I feel like I’ve found a wife for Ghurka.”

Abbe Held, co-founder and creative director of Kooba, will remain at the helm. “Joining forces with ANG will give us the opportunity to expand into new markets and categories, creating the full essence of the Kooba brand,” Held said.

When asked how he planned to grow the brand, Chehebar said, “I think there’s an opportunity to do international distribution, which is not a healthy portion of the business today. I believe there is an opportunity to open retail stores with the Kooba brand, which we know how to run, and I think there’s an opportunity to improve their online sales.”

At the same time Chehebar stressed, “I want to maintain the luxury of the brand.…Maintaining and being a steward of a luxury brand is all about knowing how to say, ‘No, this is not right for the brand.’”

Chehebar’s first project will be to revamp the brand’s advertising. “Kooba has a big celebrity following, and I want to highlight that in the advertising.”

The last time Kooba and ANG made headlines together was after a brief legal scuffle in 2006. Kooba filed a trade dress infringement lawsuit against ANG and Nordstrom for selling a handbag style Kooba believed to be copied from its 2005 collection. According to Chehebar, the suit was quickly settled out of court.

Kooba was launched in 1998 by Abbe and Bonnie Held as a luxury handbag brand. In 2007 the company expanded into apparel, introducing a small line of outerwear. Three years later, Kooba partnered with Swander Pace Capital, and launched footwear. Kooba handbags retail at Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s for $175 to $795. Industry sources estimate Kooba’s annual sales volume is approximately $20 million.

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