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fashion-features

Designing Strategy: Bill Blass Hires Bank to Explore a Sale

Fashion house Bill Blass has been approached by a would-be suitor and is exploring its options.

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with contributions from Marc Karimzadeh
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“What would happen is that the buyer would come to the table with a check for the shareholders and another one to pay off the bondholders. After that’s done, the buyer would own everything free and clear,” the banker said.

The source familiar with the negotiations said the trademarks are part of the sale. And based on the company’s current business, whoever buys Blass would acquire a brand management business. Over the years, Blass has licensed his name to such categories as coats, men’s wear, neckwear, activewear, women’s sportswear, suits, fragrances, watches, swimwear and home furnishings.

“Bill Blass is a premier American brand. Its licensing business is very good. It has couture and mainstream, moderate sportswear lines. Blass is one of the few brands that can live in multichannels simultaneously,” said Andrew Jassin of the Jassin-O’Rourke Group.

Jassin-O’Rourke is a consulting firm in the fashion industry and is a brand management adviser on several securitization deals. It has a subsidiary office in Japan called MIG Japan, a joint venture with Kaz Toyota. MIG’s focus is licensing and brand management of Western properties, and was instrumental in completing the Blass license for apparel in Japan in September 2004.

According to Jassin, “Blass is a wonderful example of the securitization model and how it can work in this industry. The model worked perfectly because the company has paid down the debt, it was done timely and there’s never been a hiccup. Michael Groveman has done a tremendous job of managing the process.”

The company is said to be in the process of reexamining its licenses to sharpen the overall focus. Its aim is to have a more cohesive licensing program. Last June, it promoted Michael Vollbracht from design director to creative director and hired Jean-Claude Huon as its licensing director. The duo’s mandate is to pursue new licenses and to replace underperforming ones.

In the most recent WWD100 survey of the most recognized brands by consumers, published last July, the Bill Blass name came in at 47. Last year, the collection had an estimated wholesale sales volume of $15 million, while its 40 licenses raked in about $700 million at retail.
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