PARIS — Luxury watchmaker Ebel said Thursday that it has agreed in principal to be acquired by Investcorp, but a challenge to the deal might come from Cartier International.
As Ebel announced the pending transaction with Investcorp, Cartier issued a statement declaring it still has “a right of first option” to buy Ebel. Cartier added, though, that it had not received “any official notice” of the Ebel-Investcorp deal.
“Thus,” Cartier said, “we are not able to make any official comment.” According to an Ebel spokes-man, Ebel makes 80 percent of the movements used in Cartier watches.
In announcing its proposed sale to Investcorp, Ebel pointed out that negotiations are still under way to determine a final agreement. As reported, Investcorp, the Bahrain-based investment group whose holdings include Saks Fifth Avenue and Gucci, said Wednesday it was in talks with Ebel.
While no financial details were disclosed, the Ebel spokesman, reached at the Basel Watch, Clock and Jewelry Fair, said that Investcorp would acquire a majority stake in the watch company.
“The actual percentage is still under discussion,” he said.
The spokesman emphasized that Ebel’s management team and business strategy will remain in place after the deal is completed. A final agreement is expected shortly, he said.
Ebel is run by president Pierre-Alain Blum, 48, a grandson of the founders. Blum holds 70 percent of Ebel. His partner, Sandro Arabian, also active in the business, holds the rest.
Ebel, based in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, was founded in 1911 by Alice and Eugene Blum. It has been owned and operated by the family for three generations. In addition to its work for Cartier, it produces 120,000 Ebel brand timepieces annually.