Fred Leighton has a new beginning after almost two years in bankruptcy.
This story first appeared in the November 11, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
FL Acquisitions LLC — comprised of Kwiat Enterprises and Och-Ziff Capital Management Group — and FOF Inventory Holding LLC signed a deal Tuesday to acquire all of the assets of Fred Leighton Holding Inc. for $25.8 million.
Kwiat chief financial officer Greg Kwiat has been named chief executive officer of Fred Leighton, in addition to his post at Kwiat.
FL Acquisitions acquired the Fred Leighton stores in New York and Las Vegas, as well as all Leighton trademarks and intellectual property. Leighton’s Beverly Hills store, opened in 2008 by then-president Peter Bacanovic, closed last month.
FL Acquisitions and FOF Inventory Holding jointly acquired the fine jewelry inventory. FOF is comprised of four estate jewelry dealers: Windsor Jewelers, Robert Sadian and Mark Emanuel of European Art & Antiques, Sima Ghadamian of Sima G. Ltd. and Moonbeam Consulting. Moonbeam’s principal is Fred Leighton’s founder, Murray Mondschein, who goes by the name Fred Leighton.
Former Barneys New York principal Bob Pressman acted as an advisor in the deal and is a co-investor in Leighton through Triton Equity Partners, where he serves as ceo.
“The Fred Leighton brand is a phenomenal…one,” Kwiat said. “It is an interesting part of the [fine jewelry] market, focusing on rare and collectable pieces….We are looking to reenter the market in a dynamic way.”
Kwiat said his first order of business is to reopen the two Fred Leighton stores on Thursday. They were closed for several days to tally inventory before the sale was complete. He said he would focus on the boutiques, which are the core of the business, for now. The staff at the firm will remain in place.
Before joining the family business, Kwiat, 32, worked as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs. The 102-year-old Kwiat has stores in New York, Las Vegas and at the Wynn Resort in Macau. The company’s primary business, however, is wholesale, in which it sells branded jewelry to the likes of Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Kwiat has antique pieces archived in addition to a vast library of sketches. Playing on its rich history, Kwiat in 2007 launched the Decades Collection, which features recreations of vintage Kwiat jewelry pieces from the Thirties and Forties.
In the long term, there are plans to grow the number of Leighton stores globally and to increase wholesale distribution on a limited and exclusive basis. Leighton’s vintage gems can escalate into the six-figure price range. There are also plans to grow the fledgling bridal business with contemporary Fred Leighton-branded pieces.
The brand’s public relations director, Rebecca Selva, will continue to focus on dressing celebrities for red-carpet events, while an advertising campaign and other promotional strategies are in development.
Ralph Esmerian, a fine jewelry dealer, acquired the 38-year-old Leighton in cooperation with Global Asset Based Finance Group, a division of Merrill Lynch, in April 2006. Esmerian filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2008, when Merrill Lynch wanted to pull back on its investment and Esmerian couldn’t come up with the capital. Esmerian is no longer affiliated with the business. Mondschein consults with the firm on an “informal basis,” Kwiat said.