LONDON — Asprey International, newly minted parent of the Asprey and Garrard brands, has sold 100 percent of Garrard to The Yucaipa Cos. LLC for an undisclosed price.
The spin-off comes just three days after the purchase of Asprey and Garrard by Sciens Capital Management LLC and Plainfield Asset Management LLC in a management buyout.
“This deal obviously didn’t happen overnight,” Gianluca Brozzetti, chief executive of Asprey International, told WWD in an exclusive interview.
“During our refinancing process, we were always seeking the best possible outcome for both brands, financially and management-wise,” added Brozzetti, referring to his months-long hunt for additional financing for the brands. “Both Asprey and Garrard needed to be restored to their natural state.”
The sale to Yucaipa marks the final division of Asprey and Garrard, both prestigious, high-end British jewelers founded in the 18th century. In 1998, the brands were joined — with much fanfare, including a wedding cake and party guests dressed in white — under former owner Prince Jefri Bolkaih, the younger brother of the Sultan of Brunei. Prince Jefri wanted to create a British luxury goods powerhouse, but it never really worked.
“The two brands were put together for tactical, rather than strategic, reasons, and they should not have been together,” said Brozzetti.
“That’s why we started the process of pulling them apart,” he said, referring to the strategies of his former bosses, Lawrence Stroll and Silas Chou.
In 2000, Asprey and Garrard owners Stroll and Chou split the two companies into separate brands under the management umbrella of A&G Group. Last summer, A&G’s ceo Brozzetti began hunting for additional financing, and that search ended with the sale of both brands.
Stroll, Chou and the other main shareholders reportedly lost a total of $500 million in the grand-scale project to build Asprey and Garrard into major luxury brands. The spin-off of Garrard confirms a story in WWD last week that Asprey and Garrard could end up under separate owners.
Brozzetti said Garrard’s sales are expected to reach $7.5 million in the fiscal year ending March 2006. Sales of Asprey and Garrard combined will be $54 million.
Brozzetti, who will step down as Garrard’s ceo, said he is “fully involved” with Asprey’s new investors and will continue as ceo of Asprey International. Asprey’s new owners did not assume any debt, and are set to pump in $80 million to $100 million to fund the group’s expansion.
Robert Procop will be taking over as Garrard’s ceo from Brozzetti. His new role has a large dose of déjà vu: Procop served as ceo of Asprey & Garrard for a year. He was brought in under Prince Jefri in September 1999 and left shortly after Stroll and Chou purchased the brands in 2000. In the short time he was there, Procop trimmed Asprey’s cost base, developed an Asprey watch and launched more Asprey-branded jewelry.
“It’s in a lot better shape than when I left,” said Procop in a telephone interview. “I’m walking into a clean house with a clean brand.”
Procop said he planned to retain Garrard creative director Jade Jagger and her team, who have shaken up the brand with hip-hop jewels and cases filled with showy baubles.
“We’ll be continuing with the collections that Garrard made successful, putting more resources into the company and moving into finer, high-value gems such as diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds,” he said. The company will also put a focus on bespoke silver.
When Jagger arrived at Garrard in 2002, her brief was to blend the classic and the avant-garde, and she delivered with gold dog tags and pendants inspired by hip-hop and heraldry. On the store’s second floor, alongside the silver, crystal, china and cutlery, she installed two Garrard bubble-gum machines filled with little silver charms.
On that note, Procop denied that Yucaipa, a group of investment companies, was focused on investing in brands with bling. Ron Burkle, managing partner of Yucaipa, is the financial force behind Sean “Diddy” Combs’ clothing line Sean John. In September 2003, Yucaipa made a $100 million equity investment in the Sean John business, with the aim of turning it into a global, billion-dollar brand. “There’s no connection there. This is a different fund under different management,” Procop said.
In a statement announcing the Garrard deal Monday, Burkle said Yucaipa was committed to “preserving the traditions of Garrard” and “introducing the brand to luxury consumers in new markets.” He called Garrard a “compelling and unique” investment opportunity.
With regard to Garrard’s retail expansion, Procop said his company will be “refreshing” elements of the flagship and will continue with Garrard’s international rollout. There will be a special focus on the U.S. “We’re looking to have a better presence there, and the first store we’d open would be in Beverly Hills,” said Procop.
He declined, however, to comment on the investment that Yucaipa planned to make in Garrard, which currently has 24 points of sale worldwide. Garrard stores are currently located in Europe, the Far East, Japan and New York. The brand’s wholesale clients include Colette in Paris, Bergdorf Goodman and Jeffrey in New York and Maxfield in Los Angeles.