NEW YORK — Liz Claiborne Inc. could be taking it to the street with the acquisition of Enyce, an urban brand owned by Fila.

This story first appeared in the November 11, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“There could be an announcement within 24 hours,” said one financial source on Monday.

A Claiborne spokeswoman declined to comment, but noted the company was not issuing an announcement on Monday. Enyce co-founder Evan Davis also declined to comment.

The brand would help Claiborne build its men’s offerings and give it a foothold in the urban market.

Enyce, which produces men’s and women’s products, was founded by Lando Felix, Tony Shellman and Davis in 1996 with financial support from Fila. The name is a play off the pronunciation of N.Y.C. and is a tribute to the brand’s New York City roots.

Last month, at the 14th Annual Key Issues Seminar held at the Fashion Institute of Technology, Shellman described the firm as having revenues of about $100 million, with operating profits above 15 percent.

During his presentation, Shellman said the urban market, which was modest in the early Nineties and has grown into a multibillion-dollar powerhouse, was “like rock ’n’ roll, we stepped out and did our own thing.”

Enyce, though, has taken a measured approach toward growth.

“We’re not trying to be number one; we’re not trying to be number two,” said Shellman. “We’re trying to be a good, quality brand and be in the right stores at the right time.”

Enyce, along with Fila, was purchased in June by Sports Brand International for $351 million.

In September, Fila laid out a major restructuring plan, which included 550 layoffs, representing 29 percent of its workforce. A statement at that time indicated that Fila also was exploring “the disposition of nonstrategic assets and alternative courses of action to improve its presence in the different markets.”

Claiborne has been a key consolidator in the industry, snatching up firms each year since 1999, including Ellen Tracy last year and Juicy Couture in April. To continue its growth rate, Claiborne needs to be acquisitive.

The firm last month reported a 12.8 percent rise in third-quarter sales to $1.17 billion, but predicted top-line growth for next year of just 3 to 6 percent, exclusive of acquisitions. At that time, Paul Charron, chairman and chief executive officer of Claiborne, had no comment on whether any additional deals would be signed this year. But when asked if 2004 would pass without an acquisition, he responded, “Absolutely not.”

Other major manufacturers, including Kellwood Co. and Jones Apparel Group, also have been eyeing the urban market for possible brand acquisitions.

This summer, Kellwood signed licensing deals for Def Jam University and Run Athletics with Russell Simmons, founder and ceo of Phat Fashions Inc. Sources also have said that Kellwood is considering an acquisition of Phat Fashions.

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