Products from Vita Liberata

On occasion, the start of a new year marks a slight break in the constant flow of M&A in the beauty world — but this hasn’t been the case for 2018.

Crown Laboratories, a recent investment of family office Hildred Capital Partners, has made its first acquisition — self-tanning brand Vita Liberata. Vita makes organic sunless tanning products, and plans to explore distribution through dermatologists under its new owner. The brand has about $50 million in retail sales, according to industry sources. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

MidOcean Partners, a private equity firm with fragrance and skin-care beauty experience, has made an investment in e-commerce-focused makeup brand BH Cosmetics. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but industry sources estimated that the business does between $50 million and $60 million in net sales.

The deals mark the latest transactions in a years-long beauty buying spree. Strategic buyers, private equity companies and venture capital firms have all been active, with many newcomers (like Hildred and Crown) moving into the space. Other recent transactions include Kao’s purchase of luxury hair-care line Oribe, Colgate-Palmolive’s venture into professional skin care with acquisitions of Elta MD and PCA Skin, and TSG Consumer’s investment in HudaBeauty.

Hildred-Backed Crown Laboratories Acquires Vita Liberata 

Crown Laboratories is buying self-tanning brand Vita Liberata.

For Crown, the deal provides access to the prestige beauty category, according to chief executive officer Jeff Bedard. “With the acquisition of Vita, we’ll be getting into the beauty premium space and then leveraging the assets throughout the portfolio,” Bedard said.

Crown is primarily a vertically integrated manufacturing business — the business has focused on health-care products and also makes Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen.

Vita Liberata makes a line of organic, sunless tanning products that are sold through QVC, Sephora, Space NK and Ulta Beauty. The company’s product lineup includes Ten Minute Tan, $39; Body Blur Instant HD Skin Finish, $45; Phenomenal 2-3 Week Tan Mousse, $54; Self Tanning Anti Age Serum, $45; Self Tan Dry Oil SPF 50 with Marula, $27; Fabulous Instant Self Tan Illuminate Wash Off Body Bronzer, $30, and Self Tanning Night Moisture Mask, $45.

The brand, headquartered in Ballyclare, Northern Ireland, was founded by Alyson Hogg in 2003. Vita Liberata has introduced new technologies into its formulations that focus on moisture locking, eliminating smells, long-lasting tans and antiaging. The business also uses a Trystal3 technology for dry, crystallized tanning options.

Vita sits in a small but growing segment of the prestige beauty industry. The prestige self-tanning market grew 10 percent for the year ended November to $52.2 million, according to figures from The NPD Group. For the prior year, prestige self tanner was up 5 percent, to $52.2 million, according to NPD.

For Vita, the deal should expand its access to the doctors’ office networks — a new distribution opportunity.

“We’re adding not just numbers of people to the potential base of brains, but we’re also adding different kinds of smarts and experiences, particularly in the area of distribution channels,” Hogg said. “Being a tanning brand, [the physician channel] is not really a channel we’ve explored before, but part of what was so interesting in the conversation that we’ve had is that the kind of product we’ve been making…is very dermatologist appropriate.”

Dermatologists are consistently advising their patients to stay out of the sun, but could provide a self-tanner to patients that hadn’t been heeding that advice, Hogg explained.

“With this merger we have the opportunity to prove organics aren’t just the pretty little sister of real skin care,” Hogg said, noting that the deal gives the company more “chemistry brains” to work on product development.

“The combination when we have a chance to get in the lab together.…I don’t even have the words to imagine what it is we might create,” Hogg said, adding that whatever it is will be folded into the retail side of Vita for consumers.

Crown is backed by family office Hildred Capital Partners, which acquired a majority stake in the business in December. Vita Liberata has been backed by Dublin private equity firm Broadlake since 2012.

Vita is Crown’s first acquisition under Hildred, but more are likely, according to David Solomon, partner at Hildred. Solomon was part of the team that built pharmaceutical business Forest Laboratories, which is owned by Allergan.

“We were successful at building a company by licensing and acquiring and partnering, and that very much is and will continue to be part of the strategy for Crown,” Solomon said.

“Vita represents Crown’s first acquisition and is a meaningful step toward building its OTC-branded consumer division,” said Andrew Charbin, director at The Sage Group, which advised Vita on the deal.

MidOcean Partners Invests in BH Cosmetics 

BH Cosmetics has inked a deal with private equity firm MidOcean Partners.

BH, headquartered in Los Angeles, makes value-priced makeup, brushes and related accessories. The brand’s product lineup includes eye shadow palettes, including the 28-shade Foil Eyes Palette, $13.99, and the First Edition 120-color Eyeshadow Palette, $17.99, as well as facial makeup, lip products, brow palettes and a Studio Pro line. The brand’s products are sold primarily online, but are also carried at Ulta Beauty, Urban Outfitters, Riley Rose and other retailers.

The eye-shadow palette from BH Cosmetics and Lindy Tsang, aka Bubzbeauty. 

WWD previously reported BH had hired The Sage Group to consider a transaction — the firm was exclusive financial adviser to BH. Industry sources indicated the brand has between $50 million and $60 million in net sales, is very profitable and does most of its sales online. The MidOcean deal will give BH the ability to expand in the U.S., globally and tackle new wholesale opportunities.

“There is a lot of room for expansion and to accelerate the growth opportunities the company currently has,” said Sage managing director Arash Farin of BH. “Wholesale will be a major growth driver going forward.”

BH has a history of partnering with influencers, including Carli Bybel, who has 5.7 million YouTube subscribers, and BubzBeauty, who has 2.9 million YouTube subscribers, on products. BH has also partnered with actress Ashley Tisdale for several palettes.

That strategy seems to have boosted the brand’s earned media value, according to data from Tribe Dynamics. BH’s EMV was up 66 percent year-over-year for the third quarter of 2017. BH has also grown its community with a 278 percent increase in ambassadors, and grew its posts by 448 percent, according to Tribe.

Under MidOcean, BH will continue to be led by founders Fred Sadovskiy, ceo; Kirill Trachtenberg, chief strategy officer, and Robert Sefardi, chief operating officer. All three will retain stakes in the business.

“BH was launched in 2009 with a focus on eye palettes and has since developed a full suite of cosmetics with high-quality products at value price points,” said Trachtenberg. “The partnership with MidOcean will enable us to dedicate additional resources to key areas of our business including innovation and product development, marketing and branding and customer service. We believe there is a tremendous opportunity to accelerate BH’s growth.”

“We believe that BH Cosmetics has substantial opportunities for continued growth and expansion fueled by appropriate investments in people, infrastructure and marketing,” said Jonathan Marlow, managing director at MidOcean. “We see numerous opportunities to increase BH’s presence across channels and geographies.” MidOcean’s beauty investment history also includes Image Skin Care, which it is currently invested in, and Agilex Fragrances, which it sold to Firmenich in 2017.

The direct tie BH has with its customers is part of the reason retailers want it, according to Sage vice president Andrew Dunst. “You’ll probably see more brands like BH pop up that are really born online venture into the brick and mortar world as [retailers] try to bring those experiences into the brick-and-mortar world.”

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