Ermenegildo Zegna buys 85% stake in Thom Browne
Zegna finally gets its man.
Ermenegildo Zegna, the Italian luxury menswear house and manufacturer, has agreed to buy an 85% stake in Thom Browne from the founder and his house’s main backer Sandbridge Capital, in a half-billion-dollar deal.
Under the terms of the agreement, Browne will be the sole other shareholder alongside Zegna. Browne will continue in the same capacity as Chief Creative Officer and Rodrigo Bazan will retain his role as Chief Executive Officer.
“I am very proud and excited for my new partnership with Zegna ... I feel that their passion for only the best quality and craftsmanship is very much aligned with how I have always approached my collections ... my conceptual approach to design and the long-term vision of growing a true luxury design-led collection for men and women is something we both feel strongly about as the future strength of Thom Browne ... with Zegna,” said Browne in a release.
While Zegna Group CEO Gildo Zegna added: “As global leaders in luxury menswear, we have always been open to opportunities for external growth. And, since we started looking at partnerships, I always knew that Thom Browne would be the perfect fit.”
The CEO predicted that Browne will enjoy “immediate benefits” from Zegna’s expertise in fabrics and manufacturing, leveraging the Italian company’s global reach to further expand Thom Browne’s retail network.
“On this strong footing, and thanks to a thriving women’s business and strong appeal with millennials, we believe that we can build long-term value for all of our stakeholders,” stressed Zegna.
The move is a vital step for Zegna which has been desperate to acquire a globally recognized brand that connects with a younger generation. Zegna was one of five underbidders in 2012 sale of Valentino to the Qatar royal family. And the earlier acquisition of cashmere house Agnona by Zegna, a 1.1 billion euros business, never properly wetted its thirst for a hot label. Underlining the Italian company’s desire for a deal, Zegna will pay more than three times the annual sales of Thom Browne. Market sources indicate Browne touched the symbolic figure of $100 million in 2016, and grew by 25% in 2017.
The deal will also make a rich man of Browne, who launched his brand in 2001, going on to become the CFDA’s Men’s Designer of the Year in both 2006 and 2013. Browne began as a quirky tailor in a small studio in the Meatpacking District producing schoolboy suits for a tiny elite; but he has developed the house into one of America’s most influential brands – and a booming fashion business while also staging couture-quality shows that were critically acclaimed for their theatrical zest.
Under the leadership of CEO Rodrigo Bazan, Thom Browne’s retail network grew to some 30 boutiques worldwide; while a strategic agreement with Farfetch provides the technology to operate the house’s website, and their digital store of the future.
Currently, Browne’s business is two-thirds men's and one-third women’s, though women’s is enjoying significant growth of 30% on a seasonal basis.
The news also marks the exit of Ken Suslow, the founder of Sandbridge Capital, from Thom Browne, with a huge capital gain.
“I believe that Zegna is the ideal partner for the Thom Browne brand. It is for this reason that we did not engage with other interested parties, and that instead Gildo, Thom and I agreed upon this deal in a privately negotiated manner,” concluded Suslow.
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