NEW YORK — Parfums de Coeur is the latest company said to be looking for a potential suitor as the pace of beauty deals kicks up.

This story first appeared in the April 6, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Parfums de Coeur president James Stammer, reached at the company’s Darien, Conn. headquarters, would not comment on the market reports. The firm is said to have hired Houlihan Lokey to explore a sale.

Several industry observers suggested it’s prime time for the privately held company — which is credited with creating the entire alternative designer fragrance market — to look for a buyer. Some sources suggested that the company’s founder, Mark Laracy, is nearing retirement and noted that fragrance market is becoming increasingly difficult to do business in.

One source said the company has been on the hunt for a buyer for a year.

The concept that helped push PDC to sales stardom — underscored by its tag line, “If you like [designer brand], you’ll love [alternative]” — is now an obstacle to international growth. European standards dictate competitive brands can’t be named in marketing efforts.

While some estimates peg PDC at over $100 million, others calculated the most a suitor would pay would be in the $40 million range.

PDC was launched in 1984 by fragrance expert Laracy. He spent 10 years at Prince Matchabelli, a subsidiary of Chesebrough-Pond’s Inc., during a time when the company was among the hottest perfume purveyors around. Between 1965 and 1975, annual sales ballooned from $7 million to $80 million.

With his knowledge that fragrance formulas couldn’t be patented, he created less expensive options of well-known premium scents including Giorgio and Opium priced at a fraction of the cost. He set mass fragrance sales on fire when he launched Primo — a mimic of Giorgio. As designer and celebrity scents filtered into the market, PDC knocked them off and rushed them to market to a receptive audience.

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