An American equity fund, Hicks Muse Tate & Furst, has bought a controlling stake of about 78 percent in the rapidly growing high-end footwear company in a transaction that values Jimmy Choo at £101 million (e144m-$192m), nearly five times the value given to the company three years ago when another investment fund, Equinox Luxury Holdings, acquired a 51 percent interest in the London-based firm.
Acting through a European subsidiary, Hicks Muse Europe, the US fund has taken over the shares of Equinox and some of those held by the estate of Tommy Yeardye, the former chairman and international director of Jimmy Choo, who died earlier this year. Yeardye and his daughter, Tamara Mellon, had started the diffusion line of Jimmy Choo, a Malaysian cobbler, co-founding the existing business in 1997. Mellon and Robert Bensoussan, who has been leading the company’s recent strong development, are understood to be the other major shareholders now and they will continue to run the company.
Bensoussan, a French executive who helped turn around Burberry, had set up Equinox three years ago together with another fund, Phoenix Equity Partners, to acquire Jimmy Choo’s shares in his own ready-to-wear footwear business, valuing it then at £23 million (e33m-$44m). Phoenix held a stake of 51 percent at the time of the takeover. Since then the company’s sales have more than tripled, going from £11 million to a projected £40 million (e57m-$76m) this year, with a strong position particularly in the UK and the USA.
Bensoussan, who previously ran Christian Lacroix and Gianfranco Ferré, indicated at the time of his first investment that he may want to acquire other brands with a strong potential, but the company is now concentrating on the Jimmy Choo brand. He has indicated lately that it has the potential to double its sales within the next few years, thanks in part to further geographical expansion, the development of new products under the brand and the establishment of new fully owned and franchised shops.
The latest change of ownership follows unsolicited expressions of interest by unnamed investors this past summer. He and his partners in Equinox, who are getting a huge capital gain from the transaction, then mandated N.M. Rothschild to advise them on the available strategic options.