Monday, July 20, 2015

Marquee Brands Acquires Ben Sherman

By Vicki M. Young  WWD 

Marquee Brands LLC has acquired the Ben Sherman brand and its related intellectual property assets. 
The brand management firm acquired the assets from Oxford Industries Inc. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Michael DeVirgilio, Marquee’s president, said, “The current management team under Oxford’s leadership has done a great job building on the core essence of the brand. We’ve received supportive messages from retailers across the globe that share our view of the growth opportunity ahead.”

The London-based brand, which began in 1963, has its roots as a young men’s edgy, “Mod”-inspired shirt label. Ben Sherman has since evolved into a British lifestyle brand targeting men between ages 25 and 40. Atlanta-based Oxford Industries acquired the privately held company in June 2004 for $146 million from 3i, Europe’s leading venture capital firm, and Enterprise Equity. The latter two firms made investments in Ben Sherman in 1993. In 2009, Oxford made the decision to exit women’s and kids to focus on men’s wear, Ben Sherman’s strongest-performing division. After a long struggle to return it to profitability, Oxford said in March when it disclosed fourth-quarter results that it was looking for a buyer for the business.

Ben Sherman failed to achieve an operating profit in the fourth quarter and for the full year, but Oxford’s president and chief executive officer Thomas Chubb 3rd said then that the business made “great progress in 2014 and left the year with positive momentum, which we believe now positions it as an attractive acquisition target.”

Selling Ben Sherman allows Oxford to focus on its larger, profitable Tommy Bahama and Lilly Pulitzer brands. Financo advised Oxford, while Ropes & Gray advised Marquee.

Marquee is one of the latest entrants in the category of brand management firms, a business model that has become a competitor for branded assets in the mergers and acquisitions game. Brand management firms work the licensing component of the IP assets to build out merchandise categories to build a brand’s business, as well as eye new sales channels — particularly in the overseas markets — for growth.

Cory Baker, Marquee’s chief operating officer, said his company targets brands with a “deep heritage and iconography.”

According to Baker, “Ben Sherman remains a uniquely classic British brand with a loyal following across five continents and a smartness that’s ageless.” He noted that the brand’s heritage, style and authenticity fit Marquee’s criteria for brands that it wants to add to its portfolio.

A relatively new company, Marquee’s first acquisition was Bruno Magli in February. Marquee’s financial sponsor is Neuberger Berman.

Zachary Sigel, a principal at Neuberger and a Marquee director, said, “We look forward to building on the success of Ben Sherman as we extend the brand by product, geography and channel.

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