Lebanese investment firm M1 Group and L Capital Asia have acquired a majority stake in Pepe Jeans Group from Torreal SA, Artá Capital and L Capital Europe in a transaction that’s expected to bolster its presence in Asia, the U.S. and other underdeveloped markets.
The company’s Barcelona-based management team, headed by chief executive officer Carlos Ortega, will remain in place. The group, along with “other shareholders close to management, will reinvest alongside M1 Fashion and L Capital Asia,” the company said.
The distribution of ownership among the principals and other details of the transactions weren’t disclosed.
Morgan Stanley had been pursuing buyers for the jeanswear brand, founded in London in 1973, since last year and hoped to generate about 700 million euros, or about $810 million at current exchange, in sale proceeds, according to published reports.
While management previously held a 30 percent stake in the firm, Torreal held a 31 percent stake, Artá, 16 percent, and L Capital Europe, 12 percent. Torreal and Artá are both based in Spain. The previous owners had bought back the rights to the brand in the U.S. and Canada in 2011 but hadn’t generated sufficient momentum in North America, according to sources, despite strength in its European business.
Pepe Jeans Group also includes the Hackett men’s wear label, which accounts for about 30 percent of sales.
In the year ended March 31, sales for the group hit 509 million euros, or $682 million, with earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization reaching 69 million euros, or $92.5 million. Dollar figures are calculated at average exchange rates for the periods to which they refer.
The company said sales rose 6 percent during the first half of the current year and that EBITDA for the trailing 12 months was 79 million euros, or about $106.6 million.
Noting the brand’s “solid positioning in Europe” and its “well-seasoned and highly capable” management team, M1 and L Capital Asia noted, “While there are multiple levers for us to bring value to the business, we believe our investment will benefit the group for further expansion globally, particularly targeting opportunities in Asia and North America.”
The global strategy was affirmed in a statement from Torreal, Artá and L Capital Europe. “Pepe Jeans and Hackett have experienced a strong development in the last few years and are today global brands uniquely positioned to benefit from additional expansion opportunities in new geographies,” they said.
M1 Fashion is a unit of M1 Group, the investment company begun in the Eighties by brothers Taha and Najib Mikati. Best known for their holdings in construction and telecommunications in emerging markets, the two paid $210 million in 2007 to acquire Façonnable from Nordstrom Inc. in their first major investment in the fashion sector. M1 worked with former Goldman Sachs partner Richard Sharp in a 2011 pursuit of All Saints but lost out to Lion Capital.
With L Capital Europe’s exit and Singapore-based L Capital Asia’s entrance to the ranks of Pepe’s ownership, the company has moved from the European arm of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s private equity business to its Asian unit.
Pepe does business in more than 70 countries with assets including about 290 owned stores, 170 franchised stores and more than 6,000 points of wholesale distribution.
Pepe hit the market 42 years ago at the dawn of the prestige jeans era. Founded by brothers Nitin, Arun and Milan Shah, it brought detail to a market that was booming principally on the strength of basics. With its early ads shot by Bruce Weber and featuring models such as Bridget Hall and Kate Moss, it set the tone for many of the designer jeans lines that followed and gained a strong foothold throughout western and central Europe and, in the Nineties, in the U.S.
Its heyday in the U.S. coincided with a period when it was owned by Tommy Hilfiger’s parent firm. It briefly held the rights for Hilfiger’s jeans line before a stake in its U.S. operation was bought by Tommy Hilfiger Corp. in 1998.
Its jeans origins have expanded to include footwear, children’s wear and an extensive range of sportswear.
In addition to Morgan Stanley, Pepe was advised by Baker & McKenzie. M1 and L Capital Asia were advised by Citi and Dechert LLP.