Less than four years after buying Fila, private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management has sold the Italian active apparel company.

Fila Korea Ltd. bought Fila Luxembourg — which holds the rights to the worldwide use of the Fila brands and trademarks — from Sports Brand International Ltd., a company within Cerberus that will retain Cloudveil Mountain Works Inc. and Motionwear Inc. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the estimated purchase price was around $350 million, with Samsung helping with the financing of the transaction, sources said. Fila is still regarded as a high-end apparel firm, particularly in South Korea, said apparel sources, who noted Fila does more in apparel than in footwear.

According to sources, SBI put Fila on the auction block about six weeks ago. There had been several interested parties, including Iconix, but Fila Korea preemptively bought the company by acquiring all capital stock of Fila Luxembourg.

Yoon-Soo (Gene) Yoon, chairman of Fila Korea, has acted as the South Korean licensee for the brand for decades and completed a management buyout of Fila Korea in 2005.

“We are very excited to acquire the worldwide Fila business,” Yoon said in a statement. “Fila is widely recognized as one of the premier global sports brands and we believe it has tremendous untapped potential. We look forward to working closely with Fila’s talented management team and regard the existing employees as a valuable asset of the business.”

Steve Wynne, president and chief executive officer of SBI, said SBI started considering putting Fila up for sale at the end of the year. “The issue for Fila was could it bring the kind of price that would benefit investors,” Wynne said. “We’ve spent a lot of time over the last three years cleaning up various areas of the business. We’ve done a lot of work in bringing new partners to the brand, and we feel we have turned Fila into a strong global brand.”

When Cerberus bought Fila from Holding di Partecipazioni Industriali SpA in 2003, the company had been up for sale for almost two years and was burdened with more than $300 million in debt. SBI holds on to the smaller brands Cloudveil and Motionwear, but Wynne said the firm will look for opportunities to sell them in the future.

This story first appeared in the January 18, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP represented Fila Korea in the deal. “It’s a significant transaction for the Korean apparel industry, as it’s one of the first internationally renowned brands to be owned directly by a Korean company,” said Charles H. Baker, corporate partner at Paul, Hastings.

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