Franklin Templeton Is in Talks to Back Sneaker Unicorn Allbirds

Franklin Templeton is in talks to invest in shoemaker Allbirds Inc. at a premium to its $1.4 billion valuation in 2018, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Founded by Joey Zwillinger and Tim Brown, the San Francisco-based company posted around $190 million in net revenue last year, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private. The talks are ongoing and funding terms might still change.

Representatives for Allbirds and Franklin Templeton declined to comment.

Allbirds, which last year called out Inc. for allegedly copying its $95 sneakers made from fine merino wool, raised funds from investors including T. Rowe Price and Fidelity in 2018. Its best-known shoes made from wool fleece became a Silicon Valley staple after their 2016 launch. Other Allbirds investors include Tiger Global Management, actor Leonardo DiCaprio and Maveron, a consumer-focused venture capital firm co-founded by former Starbucks Corp. Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz.

The company, which as a certified “B Corporation” adheres to strict standards for transparency and social accountability, in February appointed Old Navy president Nancy Green to its board. The brand has been seen on the feet of famous individuals from President Barack Obama to actor Sarah Jessica Parker.

After launching with a direct-to-consumer strategy, Allbirds has since opened physical stores in cities around the world, including New York, Berlin and Tokyo.

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