NEW YORK — LeSportsac Inc., the firm known for its assortment of ripstop nylon bags, is in play, and industry sources said Accessory Network Group is the leading contender to acquire it.

Other companies also are looking at the company, but no agreement has been signed.

According to financial and industry sources, New York-based LeSportsac began exploring its options in April. Accessory Network, also based here, was one of the firms that expressed an early interest in acquiring the firm. However, it wasn’t until this week that rumblings in the marketplace resurfaced regarding discussions between the two firms. Details such as a sale price were not immediately available.

A spokesman for each of the firms declined comment.

LeSportsac Inc. was founded in 1974 by Sandy and Melvin Schifter. Their son, Tim, joined the company in 1980 as a sales associate and in 1991, he was promoted to president. He added the title of chief executive officer in 1998. It could not immediately be determined whether he would remain with the company.

The 31-year-old firm established its reputation on its functional and utilitarian designs. That changed in 1996 when the company began updating the line with fashion details such as prints.

The LeSportsac business was invigorated again in 2002 when it began collaborating with designers such as J.Mendel, Diane von Furstenberg and Jonathan Adler for the creation of signature collections. Its partnership with Gwen Stefani on L.A.M.B. for LeSportsac handbags, which hit retail stores in fall 2003, has been a home run for the firm, with industry sources saying that the brand has reeled in $35 million since its inception. It is still hot among consumers.

In August, LeSportsac announced the collaboration for a new line featuring the anime-inspired brand Tokidoki. The plan is for a collection of 20 handbag silhouettes using ripstop nylon and featuring a cast of cartoon characters. The line, which will hit stores in February, is estimated to do $10 million in wholesale volume in its first year.

Accessory Network Group, approaching its 30th year in business, is a licensing and manufacturing company. It holds more than 40 licenses, including animation licenses for various Disney and Warner Bros. properties, and designer licenses for better handbags and hats for Calvin Klein and handbags for Ghurka. Industry sources estimate the company’s worth at $200 million.

This story first appeared in the October 26, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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