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Carlyle Bets on Men’s Grooming With Majority Stake in Every Man Jack

"We need to make a clean grooming movement," said Every Man Jack ceo Ritch Viola.

The Carlyle Group has bought a majority stake in men’s grooming brand Every Man Jack.

The brand, founded by Ritch Viola in 2007, focuses on clean formulations and affordable men’s products, including body wash, face wash and deodorant. While Every Man Jack started with 12 stockkeeping units, it now has more than 80. Products are sold at a variety of retailers, including Whole Foods, Target Corp., Walmart Inc. and Kroger Co.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but industry sources said the brand has about $60 million in net sales and has grown about 45 percent per year over the past two years. WWD previously reported that Intrepid had been hired to shop the brand.

Viola, who is currently chief executive officer, will stay in that position and become chairman of the board, which is being established for the first time. John Replogle, former ceo of Seventh Generation and Burt’s Bees; Pete Alberse, also a veteran of Seventh Generation and Burt’s Bees, and Sharon MacLeod, who spent more than 20 years at Unilever, most recently as global vice president of Dove Men + Care, will also join the Every Man Jack board.

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“A big part of us getting comfortable with the deal…is knowing we’ve got people around the table who have done this before,” said RJ David, principal at The Carlyle Group’s U.S. Opportunity Fund.

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“We self-funded this, bootstrapped it from the beginning,” said Viola in an interview. “The minute I started having a lot of these meetings, I realized if I could go back and tell my [35]-year-old self what to do, I would have started a board right from the beginning.”

Viola said he felt like Carlyle was the right fit for his brand because of the firm’s “depth of resources.”

“We’re primarily in North America today, but we see a big opportunity to grow into an international brand and I was very impressed by all the resources they had across all functions for our organization, and then across all geographies,” he said.

Jay Sammons, head of consumer, media and retail at Carlyle, noted the firm had “redoubled efforts internally” to invest in resources it could make available to portfolio companies, including digital, procurement, information technology and organizational design.

Carlyle has made several other investments in founder-led companies, including Vogue International, which it sold to Johnson & Johnson in 2016 for $3.3 billion. The firm also backed Philosophy, which was sold to Coty in 2010, and Supreme, which VF Corp. is buying for $2.1 billion.

While international expansion is part of the plan for Every Man Jack, in the shorter term the business will look to expand e-commerce operations, bulk up online sales with existing retail partners and build out Amazon Inc. and its own direct-to-consumer business.

As David put it, Carlyle is looking to “supercharge the digital business.”

“COVID-19 has only accelerated that shift to online purchasing,” said Viola. “We know guys don’t love to stand in front of a shelf and make a decision. If there’s a brand they like, they’d much rather purchase it online.”

The Carlyle-Every Man Jack deal underscores what many see as a shift in the men’s personal care market. Men didn’t used to buy themselves a whole lot of anything when it came to personal care. Every few years, experts would predict an acceleration in the men’s care market and then, nothing would change.

Now that Millennial men have grown up, however, Carlyle and Viola noted that change is here.

“Millennials essentially kicked off that it’s OK to self-care for men,” Viola said. “Previous generations were just using a bar of soap for everything…Gen Z, same thing — full permission to indulge in self care and take care of themselves from a grooming perspective.”

That shift may be why so many men’s brands, from pubic hair trimmer companies to “manly natural soap,” are said to be out in the market, looking for investors.

There’s also been an influx of retail interest in natural men’s brands, Viola said, which is one of the things that helped Every Man Jack to grow.

Every Man Jack’s core customer is “active males,” Viola said — men who pay attention to exercise and eating well. “We’re trying to connect that to what they put on their body,” he said.

Carlyle’s investment will help to amplify that messaging, and Every Man Jack plans to lean into its clean positioning. The brand doesn’t use aluminum, parabens, phthalates or dyes in its products, and doesn’t test on animals.

“Clean beauty — everyone knows what that is. No one knows what clean grooming is — we need to make a clean grooming movement,” Viola said.

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