PARIS — Jean-Charles de Castelbajac is about to switch owners again.
This story first appeared in the May 13, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The French designer said Thursday an unnamed buyer was in advanced negotiations to buy a majority stake in his namesake firm from the Swedish pension fund that owns it. Castelbajac plans to acquire a minority stake, marking a return into the share ownership of a firm he founded in 1979 and whose creative direction he still heads.
“I have been doing this job for 40 years, and this is without a doubt the most exciting moment,” he told WWD. “My greatest dream today is to have the most proactive, dynamic partner who wants to transform my creativity into a business asset.”
The Sixth Swedish National Pension Fund, also known as the Sixth AP Fund, bought a 52 percent stake in the Castelbajac brand in November 2008 from Britain’s Marchpole Holdings plc, acquiring an additional 47 percent in 2009 from Swedish design firm Atlas Design Group. Atlas holds the remaining 1 percent.
The pension fund appointed Atlas chairman Peter Wahlberg to run the brand and invested some 10 million euros, or $13.3 million, in expansion efforts. Initiatives included making over the brand into two distinct collections, the main JC de Castelbajac line and the JCDC by JC de Castelbajac diffusion line, opening a second Parisian store and launching an e-commerce site.
Castelbajac said that while the partnership had been fruitful, he looked forward to developing his business even further through licenses for products and perfume. “I would like to develop my store network worldwide and enter other fields like hotels with a fairly revolutionary concept I have created,” he said.
Sale negotiations are being handled internally and should be concluded by mid-June, the designer added, declining to provide any additional details.
Castelbajac, whose iconic creations range from the teddy bear coat to “Tribute” frocks from Mickey Mouse to Princess Diana, has witnessed a resurgence in popularity among young consumers in recent years, designing outfits for pop stars including Katy Perry and Lady Gaga.
“My work is in sync with this century. The things that were considered my handicaps in the Nineties — my cross-field approach, my collaborations with artists like Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat — are perfect for the 21st century,” he explained.