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LVMH-backed L Catterton buys sandal maker Birkenstock


(Bloomberg)—L Catterton, the private equity firm backed by luxury French fashion house LVMH, agreed to buy iconic German sandal maker Birkenstock. LVMH is No. 8 in the Digital Commerce 360 Europe 500.

The investment firm and the family behind Birkenstock announced the deal on Friday without disclosing the financial terms. Bloomberg News reported earlier this week that the purchase would value the sandal maker at about 4 billion euros ($4.9 billion).

L Catterton beat out a rival offer from buyout firm CVC Capital Partners, which was close to sealing a deal earlier this year, people familiar previously said. In the end, the family owners of Birkenstock preferred L Catterton’s track record with family-backed consumer brands as well as its ability to expand in Asia.

“Our global platform and network will provide Birkenstock not only with new opportunities, but the resources to support the continued growth in the brand and the business,” Michael Chu, co-chief executive officer of L Catterton, said in a statement.

Under the terms of the deal, the private-equity firm and the family investment company of billionaire Bernard Arnault will acquire a majority stake in Birkenstock, according to the statement. Brothers Christian and Alex Birkenstock will retain a stake in the firm.

Brand power

L Catterton was created in 2016 by combining U.S. investment firm Catterton with the private equity operations of LVMH and its founder Arnault. The firm now manages more than $23 billion of assets, according to its website. Its investments have included denim producer Pepe Jeans, workout gear brand Sweaty Betty, cosmetics firm Bliss and online retailer Everlane.

Birkenstock is a nearly 250-year-old brand best known for its sandals, which are popular with hippies and preppies alike. The style has spawned a range of luxury variants from labels including Celine and Givenchy, following a celebrity-powered bump in the 1990s and 2000s.

The company sold 23.8 million pairs of shoes in the financial year through September 2019, which helped sales rise 11% to 721.5 million euros. Birkenstocks have been sold in the U.S. since 1966, when dressmaker and designer Margot Fraser began importing the sandals after discovering them on a German vacation. Its products also include belts, bags and beds, according to its website.

Historic family-controlled companies like Birkenstock have been putting themselves on the block, as their wealthy owners look to capitalize on surging valuations for consumer companies. Private equity firms have been drawn to such businesses, which can be leveraged to boost sales and attract investors through an eventual initial public offering.

LVMH in 2016 acquired German suitcase maker Rimowa from the grandson of the founder. Family-owned luxury companies, from jewelry house Bulgari to cashmere specialist Loro Piana, have also sold out to become part of conglomerates like LVMH.

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