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Rolling With the Punches: Sale of Joe Boxer Label Is Said to Be Imminent

Joe Boxer, the high-profile label best known for its outrageous marketing and underwear, is close to being sold.

Joe Boxer founder Nick Graham

Joe Boxer founder Nick Graham.

Photo By WWD Staff

NEW YORK — Joe Boxer, the high-profile label best known for its outrageous marketing and underwear, is close to being sold.

Licensing experts, speaking on the condition of anonymity, described the prospective buyer as a New York-based brand management firm that specializes in the footwear and apparel industries. They declined to identify the company.

The deal is anticipated to close “within the week” if talks proceed smoothly, the sources said. It is uncertain what a sale of the brand would mean for Sears Holdings Corp., which carried over the exclusive agreement to sell the brand when Sears Roebuck & Co. and Kmart Holding Corp. merged this year.

Joe Boxer was founded in 1985 by the flamboyant Nick Graham, who described his chief executive officer title as “chief underpants officer.” The company was sold in March 2001 to Westport, Conn.-based Windsong Allegiance Group LLC, with Graham retaining an equity interest. Joe Boxer’s operating assets, trademarks and trade names were included in the sale to Windsong.

Neither Bill Sweedler, president of Windsong, nor Sears Holdings could be reached for comment.

As a subsidiary under Windsong’s umbrella, Joe Boxer signed a long-term exclusive agreement with Kmart in 2001. The goal was to relaunch the brand with a new line of home and apparel products. The company targeted the 2002 back-to-school season for the launch.

Joe Boxer was the first major department store brand to migrate downstream to discounter Kmart, which happened when former Kmart executive Chuck Conaway took over as chairman and ceo of the discounter in May 2000. Kmart gained the right to sell and manufacture Joe Boxer products and control the brand’s entire distribution.

But several months before the b-t-s rollout, Kmart filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy court protection. Still, the discounter made good on its promise to launch Joe Boxer as scheduled. And in true whimsical, yet attention-grabbing, Nick Graham-style, the launch took place without a hitch in Kmart’s hometown of Detroit, but with a literal bang as human cannonballs flew through the air as part of a “fashion show.” The launch was followed by other festivities, such as a marching band wearing Joe Boxer shorts parading in the streets around Kmart’s Astor Place store in Lower Manhattan.
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