Jessica Simpson's activewear line.

Want to own the Jessica Simpson brand, or its owner? It’s now possible since the brand’s owner, Sequential Brands Group, said Wednesday that it is once again exploring the sale or divestiture of one or more of its brands — or, now, the company as a whole.

The brand marketing firm also owns Joe’s Jeans, Gaiam, And1, Avia, Ellen Tracy, Caribbean Joe and William Rast, among others.

In a statement early Wednesday morning, the company said its board has relaunched a “broad exploration of strategic alternatives…[that] may include the sale of the company or the divestiture of one or more existing brands.” This is the first time the company has put itself on the sales block, although sources said Sequential was actually close to a merger with another firm until the pandemic put a stop to those plans.

William Sweedler, executive chairman of Sequential, said: “The company has successfully rationalized its cost structure and strengthened its relationships with key stakeholders during the past several months. We believe now is the right time to refocus on the process of exploring strategic alternatives to fully maximize value for our shareholders.”

In March, after reporting wider losses in the fourth quarter and year, Sequential said it was considering selling off additional brands in its portfolio. In April of 2019, the New York-based brand management company sold its Martha Stewart and Emeril Lagasse home division to Marquee Brands for $166 million. The company also amended its lending agreement to increase liquidity and cash flow.

However, the situation was brighter in the third quarter ended Sept. 30, when the company reported that on a GAAP basis, income from continuing operations was $4.5 million, or $2.71 per diluted share, compared to a loss of $18.4 million, or $11.31 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter. Included in the third-quarter 2020 figures was a $3.7 million gain on the sale of Martha Stewart and Emeril Lagasse brands. Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization from continuing operations for the third quarter of 2020 were $18.9 million, compared to $13.2 million in the prior-year quarter. Sales for the period were $24 million, down slightly from $25.4 million in the prior-year quarter.

A source close to the company said despite the slowdown due to COVID-19, the company’s lifestyle brands are holding their own and the active labels are performing well as consumers seek out comfortable apparel in which to work and work out in at home.

The Jessica Simpson brand is the most successful label in Sequential’s fleet, with annual sales before the pandemic of around $1 billion. It has owned the label since 2015. Sources said Sequential would most likely entertain offers for Jessica Simpson, if the price was right.

Other brand marketing firms such as Authentic Brands Group or Marquee Brands tend to gravitate to large labels, although one source said that Gaiam, a yoga and wellness brand, and And1, a basketball label, could appeal to a company with complementary businesses.

Sequential is “getting a lot of phone calls” about its brands, a source said, but no deals have been struck yet. However, the news of its exploration of strategic alternatives went over well on Wall Street. The company’s stock closed up 25.2 percent Wednesday to $11.79 on the Nasdaq exchange.

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