Sandra Horbach just got a big job: cohead of the U.S. buyout team at The Carlyle Group, the private equity giant with $176 billion under management.
Until her promotion last week, she was head of the consumer and retail team at Carlyle and had a hand in the firm’s investments in Philosophy (sold to Coty Inc.), Beats Electronics (sold to Apple Inc.) and Vogue International (sold to Johnson & Johnson).
Last month’s $3.3 billion Vogue deal was the first in what’s become a minirush of beauty deals across the industry, with L’Oréal agreeing to buy IT Cosmetics for $1.2 billion and Unilever agreeing to buy Dollar Shave Club for $1 billion.
WWD reached the graduate of Stanford University and Wellesley College to talk about her new gig and the ever-changing market.
Congrats on your new job. This makes you one of the most senior women in private equity just as Hillary Clinton takes on the mantle of the Democratic nominee for president. What’s the state of the glass ceiling?
There’s still a glass ceiling if you just look at the number of women in senior positions. We also talk about there being a sticky floor, because you can’t always get up and be on your way. But we’re making progress and Hillary’s nomination was inspirational. Whether you agree with her politics or not, just being a woman running for president for one of the major parties in the United States is amazing.
We’ve seen a number of beauty deals — Vogue, Dollar Shave Club, IT Cosmetics — in recent weeks. Donna Karan is also trading hands. But there’s been more activity in beauty than fashion. Why is that?
Beauty is a great business, much more recession-resistant, less cyclical, less subject to fashion changes and style changes. Beauty is a very consistent business, it’s a growth category and does well in good times and bad and usually it has good margins, good cash flows. We love beauty.
Is there something that’s pushing buyers to be especially active right now?
A lack of growth in a lot of the traditional [consumer packaged goods] companies, and so they’re looking for growth. Financing is very cheap, there’s lots of capital, and these companies are being rewarded when they make acquisitions, even when they’re paying very high multiples.
If you buy something now, do you assume you’ll be holding onto it through a recession?
We do, we factor that into our investment case. We’re not expecting a recession like what we saw in the Great Recession in 2008, but we do factor that into our analysis.
Do you have an idea when the next recession will come?
I wish I did. We’ve been in recovery for seven or eight years, if history is any indication, we would imagine we’d see one in the near term. Having said that, we don’t see conditions that would cause a severe recession.