LONDON — Liberty’s longtime stakeholder BlueGem Capital Partners has declined to comment on reports that it’s looking to offload its investment in the London specialty store.
BlueGem founder and managing partner Marco Capello, who is chairman of Liberty, declined to comment Wednesday on a Sky News report that BlueGem has hired bankers to explore a potential sale of the retailer, for up to 350 million pounds. Capello said BlueGem never comments on speculation.
According to industry sources, there are up to five bidders waiting in the wings, and a deal will be done soon.
As reported, BlueGem purchased Liberty in 2010 in a deal worth 32 million pounds. In late 2013, the store welcomed new, minority, long-term investors, a consortium of “prominent and well-established” international families from Europe and the Middle East.
It is unclear whether the other investors, who were never named, are looking to sell their stakes alongside BlueGem.
The fact that BlueGem could be thinking of selling should come as no surprise: The company had originally hoped to take Liberty public in 2018, but an IPO never materialized. Also, it has owned Liberty for nearly a decade, a long time in private equity terms where the exit window is usually three to five years.
Liberty is privately held and does not disclose sales or profits. According to the latest filings on Companies House, the official register of U.K. businesses, revenue in the 12 months to Feb. 3, 2018, rose 8 percent to 133.3 million pounds, including sales from the retailer, the fabrics business and related businesses, such as Christys’ Hats.
Profit in the period declined to 4.7 million pounds from 5.7 million pounds in the previous period. EBITDA before non-recurring and one-off costs was 21 million pounds, a 5.3 percent increase over the previous year.
Talk of a sale comes just a year after Liberty named Adil Mehboob-Khan, a beauty industry veteran who had held top posts at Wella and Procter & Gamble, as its chief executive officer. He was the first high-profile management hire at the store since the departure of managing director Ed Burstell in 2016.
The potential sale also comes against the backdrop of some strategic changes at BlueGem, which last year entered the beauty M&A arena with the acquisition of a majority stake in the indie makeup brand Iconic London. The brand is known for its illuminators, contouring and highlighting products, and Instagram-friendly formulations.
Iconic was the second beauty deal that BlueGem sealed in the span of nine months. In October 2017, it acquired QMS Medicosmetics, a German skin-care and spa brand founded by Dr. Erich Schulte in 1986. BlueGem’s larger portfolio includes Jack Wills and The Private Clinic of Harley Street, which offers cosmetic and aesthetic treatments and surgery.