His departure is viewed by a few industry sources as an indication that a possible initial public offering is now off the table. It wasn’t clear exactly when Horowitz, who joined DVF in August 2012, left the firm. Requests to a DVF spokeswoman for comment were not returned.
When he joined DVF, Horowitz said: “I’ve seen so many opportunities over the past few years, but none have shown as much potential or excited me as much as DVF. Diane and her team have created something incredibly special that consumers all over the world appreciate, and I look forward to working with the management team to further grow the business.”
DVF founder Diane von Furstenberg said at that time, “We now have a global brand, a half-billion dollars in retail sales, 58 freestanding stores and are represented in more than 70 countries. We are at the perfect stage for even greater worldwide growth, and I’m very excited that we’ve been able to attract someone of Joel Horowitz’s expertise and experience to join our company as cochairman of the board.”
Horowitz, 64, began his career at Ralph Lauren Corp., then known as Polo Ralph Lauren Corp., working in various capacities. He later joined Murjani International Ltd., but is best known for his tenure at Tommy Hilfiger Inc. Horowitz, along with Hilfiger, joined forces with their partners Lawrence Stroll and Silas Chou to form Tommy Hilfiger Inc. in March 1989. It was during Horowitz’s tenure that the company completed its IPO in 1992. While at Tommy, Horowitz served in different roles, first as president and chief operating officer, and then as chief executive officer and later executive chairman. He became non-executive chairman in April 2005 before retiring in October that same year. In 2006, Horowitz, along with a management group and Apax Partners Inc., took Tommy private, and it was sold to PVH Corp. in 2010 for $3 billion.
Given both Horowitz’s experience taking Tommy public and a proven know-how in building a business and infrastructure that could excite Wall Street investors, it seemed a natural expectation that the ultimate goal for DVF would be an IPO or, in the alternative, a strategic buildup of the business having enough scale to attract outside investors. It certainly didn’t hurt speculation along those lines when von Furstenberg hinted that an IPO was an option, even if she’s never confirmed that was the ultimate goal in mind.
Fueling the fire in recent years has been the success of the Michael Kors IPO in December 2011, which then led many to survey the landscape to see what other brands could be potential IPO candidates. Given DVF’s longevity in the business, and Tory Burch’s growing business, the two companies were often cited as probable brands that could meet what was then an appetite for fashion IPOs.
DVF in April tapped Paolo Riva as ceo following a two-year search. Riva was vice president, apparel and visual merchandising for Tory Burch LLC. At that time, while Horowitz was said to be staying with DVF, von Furstenberg may have provided a hint of what was to come. In an interview with WWD, she said of his position at the company: “His role was to set up an infrastructure and to find the ceo.”
Riva in April told WWD his priority was to “start to build a strategy for the brand and what it will look like in years to come.” DVF under Horowitz’s tenure had been strengthening its retail, wholesale and licensing operations.
One industry source familiar with DVF’s business said the brand is “holding its own,” despite the slowdown in the contemporary space. This individual said an IPO might have been the goal, but that one area that hurt the firm’s chances was it doesn’t have enough freestanding retail stores.