The quickly growing Vince brand appears to be several steps closer to the public markets.

This story first appeared in the December 14, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The brand’s parent, Kellwood Co., recently hired Lisa Klinger to be chief financial officer — giving financial lead of the company to an executive with recent experience with a retail initial public offering. Klinger last month resigned as executive vice president and cfo of The Fresh Market Inc., where she earned high marks for her handling of the firm’s 2010 IPO.

Kellwood, which is owned by Sun Capital Partners, is said to be working with Goldman Sachs as it explores an IPO for Vince, although it is not clear if the investment bank has been officially hired to put together an offering. Goldman Sachs declined to comment.

One financial source familiar with the company noted: “When businesses are being run by private equity, sometimes they have cfo’s in place who are good cfo’s but aren’t public market cfo’s, and sometimes they want to [shift] to someone who has relationships with equity investors and other people in the regular financial markets.”

If there were an IPO, most observers expect that it would be a partial spin off of Vince. That would leave Kellwood holding a significant stake in that business as well as a number of other, less profitable businesses, such as Rebecca Taylor, Sag Harbor and My Michelle.

Kellwood’s third-quarter earnings before interest, depreciation, taxes, amortization and restructuring rose 13.8 percent to $19.8 million from $17.4 million a year earlier, a company spokeswoman confirmed to WWD. That’s a good jump, especially considering sales for the three months inched up 3.6 percent to $215.5 million from $208 million.

Vince is seen as Kellwood’s financial engine. The brand is estimated to have about $60 million in EBITDA on sales of $225 million to $250 million.

In considering an IPO for Vince, Kellwood is following the steps of Michael Kors Holdings Ltd., which went public a year ago and reawakened investors to the potential gains to be had with a quickly growing fashion brand.

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