BALLY REPORTEDLY ON BLOCK

Byline: Miles Socha

PARIS — Bally appears to be the latest luxury goods brand in play.
Texas Pacific Group, which bought the Swiss footwear and accessories firm in 1999 and gave it a makeover, is shopping the company around or seeking a strategic partner, sources here said. Officials from LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton are said to have recently paid a visit to the firm, headquartered in Caslano, Switzerland. Sources said Bally also is under discussions with other parties, including private equity funds.
It is believed that Texas Pacific is looking for more funds and expertise to take the brand to the next level. A spokesman for Texas Pacific in the U.S. on Tuesday denied there was any plan to sell Bally. Officials at LVMH could not be reached for comment.
Texas Pacific, the U.S.-based leveraged buyout fund, set out to reposition Bally in the luxury sector and embarked on a plan to stem losses and modernize the brand. The new management shuttered more than 100 outmoded Bally locations, trimmed wholesale accounts and revamped and upgraded the product under the guidance of creative director Scott Fellows.
Last April, Bally unveiled a bold new store concept in Berlin, which dovetailed with new product lines and a graphic advertising campaign aimed at transforming the 150-year-old name.
But the continuing attempts to revitalize Bally are running up against the downturn in the luxury goods sector. LVMH, Prada, Compagnie Financiere Richemont and Gucci Group have seen sharp downturns in business since Sept. 11, while Gucci on Tuesday forecast only slow growth for next year.

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