Multi-brand clothing company V.F. Corporation and designer John Varvatos are selling majority control of New York-based John Varvatos Enterprises — purveyor of the John Varvatos brand of men’s luxury apparel, sportswear, footwear, and accessories — to UK private equity firm Lion Capital for an undisclosed amount.
Lion Capital, which currently invests in about a dozen consumer goods companies, including American Apparel and formerly Jimmy Choo, plans to grow John Varvatos company-owned retail stores in the US, as well as internationally. Mr. Varvatos will keep a minority interest in John Varvatos Enterprises and his post as chairman and chief creative officer.
Following the agreement with Lion Capital, V.F.’s CFO admitted that John Varvatos Enterprises is “better served under different ownership.” V.F.’s relationship with the brand has been somewhat of a mismatch from the start.
V.F. took John Varvatos into its fold when it acquired Nautica Enterprises for about $586 million in 2003. At the time, V.F. looked to sell the John Varvatos business but settled on a joint venture, giving Varvatos 20% interest, with V.F. holding the remaining 80%.
The brand first tucked in with V.F.’s smallest business, consumer apparel sportswear, and subsequently a newly created catchall of contemporary “premium-priced lifestyle brands,” including struggling denim label 7 For All Mankind and women’s sportswear brands Ella Moss and Splendid. The contemporary brands segment continues to be V.F.’s smallest business in terms of revenues, dwarfed by its outdoor and action sports segment, comprising The North Face, Timberland, and Vans labels, which achieved record revenues and operating income in fiscal 2011.
Even so, the John Varvatos brand has performed well enough to attract new ownership, generating double-digit revenue growth in 2010 and 2011. John Varvatos products are sold through 10 namesake stores in the US, as well as specialty and department stores Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, and Nordstrom.