The two transactions, which become effective this month, are further evidence that the licensing spree is fading away, at least for the major fashion brands. The large Swiss-based MSC Holding has now shed its Hugo Boss and Mexx shoe licenses. Run and controlled by Wilhelm Möhlmann, who is close to the age of 60 with no heirs, will concentrate on its own Marc brand and on its licenses for Marc ‘O Polo and S. Oliver shoes. It won't make any new deals.

The break-up with Hugo Boss is quite amicable. It will be completed on Jan. 15 for a yet undisclosed sum after one year of preparation that has allowed the German clothing company controlled by Marzotto to inherit a well-tuned operation with 480 employees – about 300 producing uppers in Poland and 180 assembling nearly 700,000 pairs of shoes annually in the Marche region of Italy.

Boss has hired André Maeder, a 44-year-old executive of the S. Oliver fashion house, to be in charge of its shoe and leathergoods operations, which generated sales of €57.5 million in 2002. Out of this amount, €22.9 million were handled by Hugo Boss itself. As a member of Hugo Boss’ management, Maeder will also be responsible for its subsidiaries in the USA and Japan and for its global retailing operations. The Swiss executive has been in charge of product management, production and marketing at S. Oliver since April of 2002, after working at Vögele and Harrods.

Maeder’s appointment became effective on Jan. 1. Hugo Boss had previously integrated licenses for bodywear, socks and knitwear into its own operations. On the other hand, the company has extended its existing fragrance license with Procter & Gamble until 2020.

MSC began as Hugo Boss’ licensee in 1995. The next year it set up a 50-50 joint venture with Marc Driessen of the Netherlands to develop and sell the Mexx line of footwear, hiring distributors in various countries. Driessen had just left in 1996 as managing director of Hoogenbosch, the large Dutch retail group that operates numerous chains of shoe shops such as Invito and Manfield.

In 1998 Driessen and MSC acquired jointly a Dutch shoe retail company, Van Dalen Europa, which now has 30 stores in Holland and Belgium. As of last Jan. 1, M. Driessen Holding owns 100 percent of Van Dalen as well as Mexx Shoes, an operation which is estimated to involve more than half a million pairs annually.

Mexx Shoes is particularly strong in Holland in Germany. It recently found new distributors in Russia and Canada. Driessen and his team are now looking in particular for distributors in France and Scandinavia.