DKI, LVMH READY FOR DEAL?

Byline: Lisa Lockwood

NEW YORK — The Donna Karan International — LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton deal is getting close, and an announcement could come today.
This would be the latest in a string of LVMH acquisitions in recent years that include Tag Heuer, Ebel, Chaumet, Thomas Pink, Hard Candy, Make Up For Ever, BeneFit Cosmetics, Bliss, the Phillips auction house, and a 51 percent joint purchase with Prada of Fendi.
As reported, a special committee of the DKI board has been reviewing the LVMH proposal, with the assistance of Merrill Lynch & Co. as financial adviser and Mayer, Brown & Platt as legal counsel. The parties reportedly met Sunday to hammer out final details of an agreement.
LVMH submitted a proposal Dec. 18 to the DKI board to acquire the firm for $195 million, or $8.50 a share in cash. LVMH has already closed on its $450 million purchase of Gabrielle Studio, the privately held licensor of the Donna Karan trademarks that was owned by designer Donna Karan and her husband, Stephan Weiss. There was some speculation that LVMH would have to sweeten the DKI deal to quell at least eight stockholder lawsuits, two in New York and six in Delaware, charging that the bid was too low. However, there has been no evidence that LVMH has increased its offer.
Reports have intensified that once a deal is reached, John Idol, chief executive officer of DKI, would leave the company with a package in excess of $10 million. Sources say Idol may be headed to Nautica, where he would head up the John Varvatos business.
As for the future management of the company, Pino Brusone, a current LVMH executive who is extremely friendly with Karan, has been cited as Idol’s likely successor. In January, LVMH hired Brusone, former managing director and “right hand” of Giorgio Armani, as senior vice president of acquisitions and brand development for LVMH Fashion Group, but sources believe he would move to DKI once a deal was completed. Denise Seegal, former president of Liz Claiborne Inc. and a previous DKNY president, has been rumored to be taking a top job at the new Karan organization, as well. Seegal declined comment.
In other LVMH news, well-informed sources say Francesca von Habsburg and Gloria von Thurn und Taxis are set to be appointed to the board of Phillips, Bernard Arnault’s auction house. LVMH would not comment on the report Sunday.