LONDON — Liberty’s private equity owner Bluegem has offloaded its stake in the London specialty store in a deal valued at 300 million pounds.
Bluegem described the transaction as a secondary recapitalization led by Glendower Capital, a global secondary private equity manager based in London, with offices in New York. UBS advised Bluegem on the transaction.
A spokesman for Glendower Capital declined to comment on the purchase.
When the company acquired Liberty in 2010, sales were 63 million pounds and EBITDA was close to zero. Last year’s revenues and EBITDA were 166 million pounds and 25 million pounds, respectively. During the period, online revenues increased from 1 million pounds to 14 million pounds.
Bluegem said department store sales increased from 36 million pounds to 94 million pounds with “substantial growth” derived from brands that are either new or exclusive to Liberty.
Since 2010, the fabrics business has more than doubled to 53 million pounds, while the in-house accessories and sleepwear brand Liberty London, which launched three years ago, generated 8 million pounds in sales.
“I am confident we have built a truly differentiated business and assembled a first-class management team that will allow Liberty to reclaim its status as one of the most iconic brands in the world, and the last truly heritage British brand,” said Marco Capello, chairman of Liberty London.
Bluegem said all of its partners co-invested on a personal basis with Glendower. Capello will remain chairman of Liberty going forward. Adil Khan, who joined as chief executive officer in 2018, continues to run the business.
According to British media reports on Sunday, Bluegem is looking to sell another of its brands, the ailing Jack Wills. Retail tycoon Philip Day, Crew Clothing and Hilco are said to be interested in buying the clothing retailer which has fallen on hard times.
Founder Peter Williams left the company last August after a disagreement with the owners and Suzanne Harlow, formerly of Debenhams, took over as chief executive the following month.
The brand has been a victim of hard times on the British high street and watched its core consumers shift their spending to streetwear, sports apparel and fast fashion brands such as Zara and H&M.
Bluegem acquired its stake in Jack Wills in 2016, teaming with Williams, then chief executive officer, to form an investment vehicle known as Union Lifestyle Limited, which owned 100 percent of Jack Wills Group.
At the time, the partners said “significant” new capital had been invested to facilitate growth of the Jack Wills brand in the U.K. and internationally. Inflexion, the long-term investor in Jack Wills, officially exited the company when Bluegem took over.
Bluegem has also been making investments beyond the realm of apparel.
As reported, Bluegem took a leap into the beauty M&A arena in 2017 with the acquisition of QMS Medicosmetics. It had discovered the brand on the shop floor at Liberty, the only department store that stocks the products in the U.K. Bluegem purchased QMS from its founder Dr. Erich Schulte, a German traumatologist and cosmetic surgeon.
The following year, the company took a majority stake in the indie makeup brand Iconic London, known for its illuminators, contouring and highlighting products and Instagram-friendly formulations.
The plan is to quadruple sales of the brand, which are understood to be under 10 million pounds, and begin distributing in the U.S., which is already Iconic’s second-largest market. The new investment will also see the launch of new product, and further geographical expansion.
Both QMS and Iconic are run by Selma Terzic, an industry veteran who has worked at The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc., St. Tropez, PZ Cussons Beauty and Pat McGrath Cosmetics.