LVMH-Backed L Catterton Nears Deal to Acquire Birkenstock

L Catterton, the private equity firm backed by luxury French fashion house LVMH, is nearing an agreement to acquire iconic German sandal maker Birkenstock, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The investment firm and the family behind Birkenstock could announce a deal in the next week, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private. The transaction could value Birkenstock at about 4 billion euros ($4.9 billion), they said.

L Catterton has been competing with buyout firm CVC Capital Partners, which was close to sealing a deal earlier this year, the people 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, Bloomberg News reported this month.

Representatives for L Catterton and Birkenstock declined to comment. While talks are advanced, an agreement could still be delayed or fall apart, the people said. CVC is still interested in the German company, should an opening arise, the people said.

L Catterton was created in 2016 by combining U.S. investment firm Catterton with the private equity operations of LVMH and its billionaire founder Bernard 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.

Brand Power

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.

CVC bought Breitling SA, the Swiss watchmaker known for the aviation-themed timepieces worn by actor John Travolta, in 2017. Other family-owned luxury companies, from jewelry house Bulgari to cashmere specialist Loro Piana, have sold out to become part of conglomerates like LVMH.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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