Body Glove women's rashguard

After traversing the global market to acquire Bruno Magli from Italy and Ben Sherman from the U.K., Marquee Brands headed to Southern California for its latest purchase: Body Glove.

The New York-based company, which specializes in buying, licensing and developing brands with funding from asset management firm Neuberger Berman, acquired a majority stake in the 63-year-old, family-owned surf brand for an undisclosed sum.

This is the latest example of the appeal of a heritage brand that is prime for a revamp. It is also a sign of the ongoing consolidation that is tightening various segments of the fashion industry in a challenging retail market. Despite the financial woes of other surf brands such as Billabong, Quiksilver and Roxy, Marquee said Body Glove was a perfect candidate to join its portfolio.

“Yes, there have been some troubled businesses like Quiksilver and Roxy,” said Michael DeVirgilio, president of Marquee. “If you look at their business, it’s predominantly apparel. If you look at Body Glove, it’s across the water sports lifestyle business. People are still going to go surfing. People are still going to go snorkeling. People are still going to go touring in Hawaii and need flotation devices. This is what attracted us to the brand: the diversity of products and the diversity of channels.”

Founded with a basic Neoprene wet suit by twins Bob and Bill Meistrell, Body Glove rode surfing’s popularity, disseminating its logo of a black glove slapped on a neon yellow background to board shorts, swimsuits, sunglasses, casual sportswear and Neoprene phone cases. Last year it tried to catch the surging wave in women’s activewear by launching Breathe by Body Glove, stocked with colorful sports bras, printed capris and leg warmers. DeVirgilio said the whole business is pretty balanced, split equally between soft and hard goods.

Oddly, even after six decades, Body Glove doesn’t own its own flagship retail store in the U.S. DeVirgilio said there are roughly 100 Body Glove-branded stores and shops-in-shop in Thailand. “We are looking to create a retail strategy for the brand,” he said. He expects the first freestanding shop to bow within the next 12 to 18 months. A good bet for the location would be in California or Florida. “We have to be very smart where that flagship is,” he said.

Plus, “there is more than warm weather sports as well,” said Cory M. Baker, Marquee’s chief operating officer, noting that an obvious extension is into snowboarding.

Retaining a minority interest in the brand, the Meistrell family remains partners with Marquee to provide institutional knowledge and ease relationships with sponsored pro athletes. With fewer than 100 employees at the Redondo Beach, Calif.-based business, five of the third-generation members descended from the late founding brothers work there full-time.

Marquee declined to reveal financial figures but Forbes estimated that Body Glove’s sales in 2013 totaled $80 million. To add to its New York headquarters and London design office, Marquee said it plans to open a West Coast office that will support Body Glove’s brand management and marketing teams.

Following Marquee’s acquisition of Bruno Magli in February 2015 and that of Ben Sherman in July 2015, the deal with Body Glove moves the group closer to its goal of owning eight to 12 brands, Baker said.

“We’re acquiring these brands for the long haul,” he said. “We’re making sure that we’re growing them and investing in them.”

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