It could be decision time for Anastasia Soare.
Sources said the brow maven, who is founder, chief executive officer and owner of Anastasia Beverly Hills, has received a range of offers from strategic and large private equity investors and has this week been mulling the path forward.
Some of the suitors are said to have proposed minority investments, while others have offered to buy the company outright. The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc., Unilever and Coty Inc. are all said to be involved in the process, which was revealed by WWD in December and is being managed by Imperial Capital. One source said final bids were due two weeks ago, but the various players are still jockeying for position.
Soare declined comment Wednesday, as did a Coty spokeswoman. Lauder and Unilever did not return calls seeking comment.
The fevered bidding could value Anastasia at $2.5 billion or more — potentially making a billionaire out of the Romanian-born Soare, who moved to the U.S. as a single mom and couldn’t speak English or get a $500 credit card.
Clearly, Soare is a quick learner and has found her American dream.
Basing her brow-shaping technique on the golden ratio, she launched her Beverly Hills salon in 1997 and introduced the brand’s first product line in 2000.
“I came from nothing,” Soare told the audience at the WWD CEO Summit in October. “Just a few years ago, I had zero Instagram followers, which in today’s social media world means that I didn’t exist.” Today, the brand not just exists online, but thrives and has 16.1 million Instagram followers as well as a burgeoning business across 25 countries, with distribution in more than 2,500 doors, including Sephora and Ulta Beauty.
The privately held company does not release the specifics of its financial performance, but sources have said it has sales of at least $340 million and about $200 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. That would give a $2.5 billion deal a multiple of 7.4-times sales.
At the summit, Soare spoke passionately about life as an immigrant and a visit to President Obama’s White House: “This is my dream…to take every opportunity that I see in this country that probably you don’t see it unless you are an immigrant like me….[At the White House], I was under that [presidential] seal, and I said to my daughter, ‘Can you please take a picture? Because if it wasn’t for this country, I would never be able to do what I [do] today.’”
The question, though, is what to do next?
Clearly the beauty dealmaking market is still very hot, making a range of deals possible.
Private equity companies have been swarming, looking to snap up smaller, hot brands that have established themselves and then turn around to sell them to strategic players with big gains.
General Atlantic, for instance, invested in Too Faced Cosmetics in June 2015 and just 18 months later cut a deal to sell the brand to Lauder for $1.4 billion — or about 5.5-times sales.
Financial sources repeatedly point to the deal, and what was said to be a hefty premium, as a sign of what’s possible in beauty.
All that investment interest in the space has made it harder for strategics to swoop in, with some founders tempted to first sell a stake to a financial investor and then get a second bite at the apple in a second deal down the line with an operating company.
The range of offers would also presumably give Soare the latitude to decide how she, as well as her daughter, Claudia Soare, want to be involved in the business going forward.
One way or the other, Soare is expected to make her decision soon, ending what’s been a long flirtation with investors.
At another WWD summit in West Palm Beach, Fla., the Beauty CEO Summit in 2016, Soare teased that she was aware of the investment interest in her brand, but said: “I own 100 percent of the company, if you are curious about that. I don’t have any investment, and I’m not planning to get any [any]time soon.”
The time may have come.