mayor's jewelers

Aurum Holdings is establishing a solid foothold in the U.S. prestige and luxury jewelry market with its $104.6 million deal to acquire Mayor’s Jewelers Inc. from Birks Group Inc.

The 107-year-old Mayor’s is concentrated in Florida and Georgia with 17 stores, including 15 that have Rolex agencies. Aurum, which was bought by private equity giant Apollo Global Management in 2013, is already the largest prestige and luxury jeweler in the U.K., with 130 stores under the banners of Watches of Switzerland, Goldsmiths, Mappin & Webb, Watchshop, The Watch Hut and The Watch Lab.

The U.S. has been in Aurum’s sites for some time. The company is opening a Watches of Switzerland flagship in New York City’s Hudson Yards and counts itself as the largest distributor in the world of luxury Omega and Tag Heuer and is the U.K.’s largest distributor for Rolex, Cartier and Breitling.

“We plan to fully utilize the experience and expertise of the team in Fort Lauderdale to support the Aurum plans throughout the U.S. and we look forward to working with our new colleagues at Mayor’s,” said Brian Duffy, chief executive officer of Aurum.

The deal is a vote of confidence for physical retail.

“We connected two highly successful luxury retailers that are heavily brick-and-mortar at a time when everybody’s talking about the problems in brick- and-mortar,” said Elsa Berry, managing director and founder of Vendôme Global Partners, who helped Birks find a buyer for Mayor’s.

Berry said there was plenty of opportunity in the space and noted the deal would help Birks build on its own namesake brand and strengthen its business in Canada, while giving Aurum entry to the U.S. and creating a lasting bond between the two companies.

“There’s a lot going on after the close, the two parties are going to continue to work together,” she said, describing Mayor’s as “a very solid platform” that gives Aurum “a headquarters and distribution center in the U.S. near Fort Lauderdale.”

The Birks brand will be launched in September in some of Aurum’s U.K. stores and will continue to be sold throughout the Mayor’s chain after the deal closes this fall, as well as in the company’s own doors in Canada.

Jean-Christophe Bédos, president and ceo of Birks, said: “Aurum is a strategic buyer committed to continuing investing in Mayor’s long-term growth, and with whom we share many synergies. This transaction is a significant step in our efforts to strengthen our balance sheet to better position the company for growth as well as long-term shareholder value. We believe that monetizing the value of Mayor’s gives us the ability to execute our strategic vision of investing in the Birks brand together with the retailing of internationally renowned jewelry and timepiece brands in Canada, thus transforming Birks into a global, omnichannel business.”

Birks’ distribution agreement with Aurum lasts five years.

Investors gave the deal the thumbs-up and sent shares of Birks up 14.6 percent to $1.55 in midday trading Friday.

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