The former Liz is all the closer to being just Kate.
This story first appeared in the April 4, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Fifth & Pacific Cos. Inc. has hired two investment banks to sell off Lucky Brand and Juicy Couture, focusing the company formerly known as Liz Claiborne Inc. on the promising Kate Spade business.
Perella Weinberg Partners has been hired to sell Lucky while Centerview Partners is shopping Juicy, according to sources. Teasers for both brands were sent to private equity firms, and “the book” on Lucky, a comprehensive read on the state of the business, was sent out last week.
William L. McComb, chief executive officer at Fifth & Pacific, declined to comment Wednesday, as did Perella Weinberg. Centerview could not be reached.
Selling off Lucky and Juicy would leave Fifth & Pacific with Kate Spade and a smaller private label jewelry business, ending the company’s portfolio era. At its height, the firm marketed more than 30 brands and produced revenues of nearly $5 billion. The former namesake brand, Liz Claiborne, was sold to J.C. Penney Co. Inc. in 2011.
Kate Spade has its roots in the profitable accessories business, but has expanded out into apparel and other categories and is seen by many as a strong lifestyle brand that could potentially tap into the investment magic that made the Michael Kors Holdings Ltd. stock offering so successful.
Craig Leavitt, Kate Spade’s ceo, told analysts last month that the brand’s total sales at retail could rise from nearly $800 million to $2 billion by 2016 and ultimately hit $4 billion.
Selling off Lucky and Juicy could help fund that expansion, which includes more Kate Spade stores and the development of the Kate Spade Saturday business.
Mary Ross Gilbert, a stock analyst at Imperial Capital, said Fifth & Pacific could sell off majority
stakes in Lucky and Juicy and then divest the Adelington Design Group jewelry business altogether.
“They increased their [capital expenditures] this year to be able to accelerate their growth of Kate Spade,” Gilbert said. “In order to fund that growth, they need to sell those assets. Otherwise, they would have to add more debt. We estimate they would have to raise another $100 million in debt this year.”
It’s not clear just how much Lucky and Juicy might fetch.
Juicy’s adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization fell 62 percent last year to $24.6 million on sales of $498.6 million.
Juicy has drifted lately with multiple merchandising miscues, but the brand is believed to have the potential to gain more traction in Asia, where its presence is seen as strong. Paul Blum, former chief at Kenneth Cole Productions Inc. and David Yurman, has led the brand as ceo since December.
Lucky is in better shape financially but isn’t necessarily seen as a slam dunk by the investment set. The brand’s adjusted EBITDA rose 36.6 percent to $34.7 million last year on sales of $461.7 million.
Investors are clearly keen on the idea of focusing the company on Kate Spade. Shares of Fifth & Pacific rose 7.6 percent to $20.03 Wednesday after a published report surfaced that the investment banks had been hired. The stock hit a new 52-week high of $20.37 in midday trading.
If Fifth & Pacific is whittled down to Kate Spade, it is unclear what would happen to McComb, who took the helm of the firm in 2006 and oversaw a period of dramatic change, when divisions were spun off and the business was refocused on its “power brands.”
In an interview in February, McComb seemed unconcerned about his future at the company if its structure changed.
“The answer on what happens to me is, ‘Who cares?’” McComb said. “Honestly, if I’m doing my job, then those aren’t the things that matter.”
McComb’s 2012 compensation rose 51.1 percent to $8.2 million, according to a regulatory filing late Wednesday. That included a salary of $1.3 million and stock and option awards valued at $6.8 million. The ceo might never realize the full value of the stock compensation given vesting schedules and stock price fluctuations.