TWO FIRMS SAID TO BE EYEING BLASS COMPANY

Byline: Eric Wilson

NEW YORK — Bill Blass hasn’t made it a secret that he wants to sell his business, but as market reports surfaced over the weekend that at least two firms are performing due diligence as an overture to a pending acquisition, the designer wouldn’t divulge any details.
“I can’t talk about that right now,” Blass said, when reached by phone at his Connecticut home on Monday. “There have been rumors about a couple of companies, but more than that I cannot say.”
That included identities of the companies that might be interested in acquiring Blass’s designer ready-to-wear business with retail sales estimated at $20 million to $25 million and its 40-some licenses that generate $700 million in annual retail sales. However, sources indicated it could be a financial firm that would invest in Blass while keeping its existing management in place.
Blass has been the sole owner of the company since 1970, when he bought out his former partners and formed Bill Blass Ltd. as owner, chairman and designer.
Blass, who disclosed to WWD in February his intentions to retire and sell the company in the near future, has lately been coy about when he intends to officially quit the business, sometimes saying, “No comment,” and at other times saying he plans to remain active in a consulting role that would include designing collections and making public appearances.
On Monday, asked again if his spring 2000 collection, which is to be shown on Sept. 16 at 11 a.m., would be his last, Blass said, “Oh, that I wish it were. Even that I cannot say.”

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