LONDON — The billionaire British petrochemicals tycoon and motor head Jim Ratcliffe has agreed to purchase Belstaff for an undisclosed price, leaving Bally as the last brand standing in the JAB Luxury stable.
Belstaff confirmed Monday that it will be sold to Ineos, the petrochemicals giant and Britain’s largest private company. Ineos’ self-made founder Ratcliffe, a Manchester native who’s ranked at 18 on The Sunday Times of London Rich List, between Earl Cadogan and Nicky Oppenheimer, with a net worth of 5.75 billion pounds. Belstaff marks Ratcliffe’s first foray into the luxury fashion business.
The brand is the second in the JAB Luxury stable to find a suitor following the sale of Jimmy Choo to Michael Kors for $1.2 billion earlier this year. Only Bally remains, and while the company declined to comment on a sale, it is understood that principals have whittled their list down to 5-10 suitors, and a deal is likely to be done by the end of the year.
Earlier this year the multinational JAB, a major shareholder in the beauty and consumer goods giants Coty Inc., and Reckitt Benckiser, announced its decision to exit luxury altogether and focus on its recent acquisitions in the coffee and food and beverage industries.
Gavin Haig, chief executive officer of Belstaff, which is best known for its motorcycle-inspired outerwear, said he and JAB had met with a wide range of potential buyers from around the world, ranging from private equity to trade to entrepreneurs, and chose Ineos because they believe Ineos will be “a great custodian and a good home” for Belstaff.
“They have an understanding of the brand — and the resources and vision to develop it. They recognize the fantastic heritage of Belstaff,” said Haig in an interview following the announcement. Haig confirmed that Ineos has asked him to remain as ceo.
“JAB is very pleased to be handing Belstaff’s reins to Ineos, a great, growing company with the passion, desire and vision to further the company’s success,” said Peter Harf, senior partner at JAB Luxury. “We are confident that Ineos is the best possible steward for the company and its talented team, and we wish them all success.”
Haig added that Ratcliffe, an avid sportsman, motorcyclist and car lover (he’s vowed to build the next-generation Land Rover Defender after Land Rover stopped making it last year), has been wearing Belstaff gear for a long time. Belstaff will be a tiny part of Ineos, which is the 200th largest company in the world with sales of $40 billion.
Ineos said in a separate statement that plans for Belstaff would be announced in due course, and declined further comment.
Belstaff was founded in Staffordshire in the English Midlands in 1924, and it quickly became known for its waxed cotton fabric jackets beloved by motorcycle enthusiasts. It was later owned by Italy’s Malenotti family, which focused on the outerwear offer alone. In 2011 they sold it to a group of investors including Labelux (which has since been folded into JAB), Tommy Hilfiger and Harry Slatkin.
The new owners relaunched Belstaff as an ultra high-end luxury label, with outsized ambitions and ad campaigns starring the likes of Ewan McGregor and David Beckham.
JAB eventually took full control of the business, and Haig, a Cartier veteran, began transforming it into a lifestyle brand. He lowered the prices, began rolling out stores worldwide and building up the clothing and accessories offer, although Belstaff is still best known for its luxury outerwear, motorcycle and belted biker jackets.
Earlier this year, the company launched eyewear with the Australian company Imatta and a small collection of children’s wear.
Belstaff is headquartered in London, and also has showrooms in New York, Milan and Munich. About 70 percent of sales come from wholesale and 30 percent from retail, including online which Haig said is growing 25 percent year-over-year. The brand has a flagship on New Bond Street, and thirteen stores in Europe, the U.S. and Asia.
Haig said during the interview that since he arrived in 2014, he’s grown the business by a third and it has been notching double-digit growth year-over-year over the past 2-3 years. He said he cut costs by 50 percent, and the company is now “very close” to break-even.
Its most important markets are Germany, the U.K., the U.S. and Japan where it has four shops-in-shops and a stand-alone store in Ginza.
Haig declined to reveal specific financial figures, and said those filed at Companies House, the official register of U.K. businesses, painted only a partial picture of the company and did not reflect the global business.
According to the most recent figures from Companies House, Belstaff’s 2015 sales were 7.9 million pounds, a 3.4 percent decrease on the previous year. Losses shrank to 4.8 million pounds from 7.6 million pounds in the previous period. In 2015, Belstaff’s fiscal year was 11 months long as the company aligned its fiscal year with the calendar year.