DEAL FOR HARRY WINSTON IN THE WORKS

Byline: Wendy Hessen

NEW YORK — The lengthy battle for control of Harry Winston is winding down.
After years of bitter disputes between founder Harry Winston’s heirs and the family trust, Winston’s elder son, Ronald, chairman and chief executive officer of the Fifth Avenue jeweler, has joined forces with Fenway Partners, a private equity investment firm, to acquire all outstanding shares in the company for
$54.1 million.
“It’s been 11 years of wrangling,” said Ronald Winston, who declined to elaborate on what share of ownership he will retain. “There are still several issues to be firmed up in the deal, although we expect them to be completed by Labor Day.
The feud, ostensibly between Ronald Winston and his brother, Bruce, has been going on practically since their father’s death in 1978, when he left each 50 percent of the business. Ronald, the older brother who ran the company, dismissed Bruce from his marketing job at the store in 1994, further escalating the already strained relationship between the siblings. The company has been on the block for several years, though each brother resisted joining with another partner in order to gain control.
“There has been a tremendously destructive effect on the company,” Ronald Winston said, “but it will no longer be under siege. Fenway Partners and I will work out a long-range plan. We want to reassert [Harry Winston] into its place as a major global luxury brand.”
A spokesman for Fenway Partners stressed that the company’s involvement with Harry Winston is an investment rather than an outright purchase and that Fenway prefers to work with established management to build a company. He confirmed that Fenway expects to finalize the details of the Winston investment in the next four to six weeks.
Fenway currently has capital under management in excess of $1 billion. The firm also has major interests in companies including mattress maker Simmons; Delimex, a Mexican frozen-food company, and C.T. Farm and Country, which supplies products and clothing to the farm industry.

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