NEW YORK — Denim mill Galey & Lord Inc. on Wednesday agreed to be acquired by Patriarch Partners LLC, a private investment company.

John Heldrich, president and chief executive officer of the Atlanta-based textile firm, said the new ownership would allow the $400 million Galey & Lord to move more rapidly to prepare for the end of the quota system on Jan. 1 by the 147 nations of the World Trade Organization.

“We have a partner that shares our vision for the future and who I believe will support us in the short- and long-term,” Heldrich said in an interview.

Ownership of Galey, which in March emerged from a two-year stint in bankruptcy, is divided among 20 equity funds. The deal must be approved by Galey’s investors and the proposed selling price was not disclosed. The U.S. textile industry has been shrinking for years and in 2002 Galey was one of four major U.S. mills operating under Chapter 11 protection.

In March, investor Wilbur L. Ross acquired Cone Mills Corp., which had revenues comparable to Galey’s, for $90 million. Ross merged that firm with Burlington Industries to create International Textile Group, a $900 million business and a rival of Galey’s.

Patriarch is a New York-based investment firm that manages about $4 billion in assets. It’s been investing in Galey since December 2000 and also holds ownership positions in textile concerns Duro Industries, Glenoit Industries and New River Industries, according to Lynn Tilton, Patriarch’s principal.

She said she had no plans to merge any of those firms.

“We’re most interested in Galey right now,” she said. “We don’t feel like Galey had the time to really be able to make the changes it needs to make to live in this competitive environment.”

Galey has joint-venture operations in Tunisia, the Philippines and Mexico. Heldrich said the firm would be seeking other ways to expand its manufacturing presence overseas, either on its own or through joint ventures.

— Scott Malone

This story first appeared in the July 22, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.