Adriana Lima

Safilo Group has purchased a majority stake in the affordable eyewear brand Privé Revaux for $67.5 million.

The Italian company bought a 61.34 percent interest, while founder David Schottenstein retains 15.5 percent of the equity, and his celebrity partners Jamie Foxx, Hailee Steinfeld and Ashley Benson, along with senior management and certain other investors, hold the remainder.

Under the terms of the deal, Schottenstein will continue as chief executive officer of Privé Revaux and the team at the Miami headquarters will also be retained.

Schottenstein created Privé Revaux two-and-a-half years ago as a fashionable alternative to premium sunglasses. Most of the styles sell for around $29.95. It has since expanded into blue light-blocking glasses to fight eye fatigue. The company had sales in 2019 of about $20 million, a 90 percent jump over the prior year. In addition to its direct-to-consumer business, Privé Revaux has a storefront on Amazon, sells on QVC and has developed a large wholesale business with Kohl’s, Dillard’s, America’s Best and other retailers. This spring the firm is partnering with GrandVision to expand into Europe.

The brand has also been given a boost by creating capsules with well-known influencers including Benson, Steinfeld, “Riverdale” star Madelaine Petsch and, most recently, model Adriana Lima. In mid-2018, Privé Revaux received an undisclosed investment from private equity firm TSG Consumer Partners. Safilo has acquired TSG’s stake as well.

Angelo Trocchia, Safilo’s ceo, said the acquisition is evidence of Safilo’s “new strategic plan to take on a different journey.” He said the Italian group’s goal now is to attract a younger, more social media-savvy consumer, and Privé Revaux will help it move further down that road. In return, Privé will receive the financial and back-office support of a large, international corporation with extensive geographical reach. Safilo operates in 40 countries around the world.

In December, Safilo made a similar deal with Blenders Eyewear, a California-based digitally native firm, acquiring a 70 percent stake from founder Chase Fisher for around $90 million. The founder and headquarters of that brand were also retained.

“Blenders and Privé Revaux fit our new direction,” Trocchia said. “We want to talk directly to the consumer with a different language.”

He said the first priority with Privé is to allow Schottenstein and his team to continue to build on what they have created up to this point. “We have no intention of integrating it,” he said. The second is to immediately expand the brand in Europe and around the world. “In Europe, there is huge market potential,” he said, “and outside the U.S., we work with all the big chains.”

He said he believes Privé Revaux “has successfully created a repeatable and scalable strategy with celebrity capsule programs that can be introduced into various markets around the world, a consumer-centric marketing model from which we can learn and leverage on, while putting our capabilities at its disposal for its global expansion.”

He said the goal for the brand is to continue to grow “and Safilo will support as much as we can,” Trocchia said. “And we will try and learn from them, too. We will try to apply what they do to some of our other brands.”

Schottenstein said Privé will benefit from the design, sourcing and distribution capabilities of its new parent, while Safilo will draw on his company’s ability to “speak to a Millennial consumer.”

Schottenstein, a member of the Ohio family that made its name in the retail business with discounters such as Value City Department Stores, DSW and Filene’s Basement, has called himself a serial entrepreneur. He started his first business at age 12, selling cigars to businessmen. He founded the custom bespoke tailoring company Astor & Black, which he sold to private equity firm Castanea Partners, as well as Swiss Stays, a collar stay brand that he sold to a private investor. He also started a legal billing business that he sold as soon as possible. “I never realized how miserable I would be,” he said. “It was like selling ground beef to a vegan. The minute I got an offer, I was out.”

But he feels differently about Privé Revaux, which remains a labor of love. Schottenstein told WWD that he wasn’t looking to sell the brand but was approached by Safilo, and after meeting Trocchia through a mutual friend, the more synergies they uncovered.

“Safilo is 140 years old and one of the top names in the eyewear business,” he said. “As an entrepreneur, it was very exciting to be considered as an addition to the company. I love Privé Revaux and it was important that I was completely aligned with Angelo and Safilo,” Schottenstein added. “I’m excited to take my skill set and apply it to historic, legacy brands.”

Ashley Benson

Ashley Benson in a model from her line with Privé Revaux.  Lexie Moreland/WWD

Benson, who has been involved since the beginning of the brand, said it was surprising how quickly everything has moved with the company. “The brand was such a success so quickly and the deal with Safilo will only make our company and the quality better,” she said. And the deal will also allow her to better service her fans from outside the U.S. “We live in a fast-changing world, specifically a fast-changing retail world. Clearly Safilo has the vision to see that Privé Revaux can help Safilo create something new in eyewear and I very much look forward to being a part of that.”

“When we started Privé Revaux we knew we were going to shake things up, we just didn’t realize how quickly and to what extent,” Foxx said. “Now, with Safilo’s know-how and expertise, we can turbo-charge this and take it to a completely different level, on a global scale.”

“Getting together with a company like Safilo is truly an honor and really says a lot about who we are as a brand. Looking at our opportunities, both in terms of continuing to grow Privé Revaux and in terms of really helping to grow Safilo’s existing brands, it is obvious to me that this made sense and was meant to be. I am so excited for the coming years and am very much looking forward to working with Safilo,” Steinfeld added.

The publicly listed Safilo recently lost both the Dior and Gucci licenses. It produces its own brand as well as Carrera and Polaroid, and produces and distributes for labels ranging from Fendi, Tommy Hilfiger and Jimmy Choo to Max Mara and Marc Jacobs. This year, it is launching three new licenses: Missoni, Levi’s and David Beckham.

Trocchia said despite the back-to-back acquisitions of Blenders and Privé, that doesn’t mean Safilo will continue to make purchases every two months. “But we will keep looking for other options,” he said. “Our strategic direction is to be lean, fast and digital and talk the language of the Millennials. But for the next couple of months, I think we will relax.”

The acquisition was financed partially through a loan provided by Safilo’s reference shareholder, Multibrands Italy B.V., controlled by HAL Holding N.V.