Iconix takes control in China

Iconix Brand Group has bought the 50 per cent stake in its China joint venture from partner Novel Fashion Brands.

Iconix paid Novel’s owners, the Chou family, $56.4 million for the share, of which $40.4 million was paid in cash and $16 million was paid in the company’s common stock.

“We view China as a major growth opportunity. Through Silas and Veronica Chou’s expertise and relationships, Iconix China has successfully launched nine of our brands with more than 900 standalone stores, shop-in-shops and counters throughout China,” said Neil Cole, chairman and CEO of Iconix.

“Now that our business has gained sufficient scale, we have decided to acquire management and control of the business, consistent with the next phase of our international growth strategy.”

Iconix China was formed in September 2008 and to date has successfully launched Candie’s and Marc Ecko Cut & Sew with Shanghai La Chapelle Fashion; London Fog with China Outfitters; Material Girl with Ningbo Peacebird; Ed Hardy with Landmark International;  Ecko Unltd with Xi Ha Clothing; Badgley Mischka with Eve NY, Joe Boxer with Northeast Socks and Royal Velvet with Qingdao Hongfang.

The company’s operating model, different from the US parent company’s traditional licensing model, has been to attract entrepreneurs and fast-growing local Chinese companies, providing them with an Iconix brand in which they invest through the build-out of stand-alone stores and shop-in-shops, and in return Iconix China receives an equity stake in the newly formed venture.

The largest brand in the Iconix China joint venture is Candie’s, which partnered with Shanghai La Chapelle in 2010. The Candie’s business in China expanded to more than 700 stores and shop-in-shops by 2014 and is poised for continued growth.

The company’s business platform in China also includes its three global brands of Peanuts, Umbro and Lee Cooper which have been managed outside of the joint venture.

China has been one of the fastest growing territories for the Peanuts brand. Today, Peanuts has over 2000 points of distribution across China including 20 Charlie Brown Cafe’s, and significant growth potential with the highly anticipated launch of the Peanuts movie.

Last year, Iconix partnered with Global Brands Group (a spin-off of Li & Fung) to build out the Lee Cooper and Umbro brands in China, both of which have strong brand recognition in the region.

Willy Burkhardt, EVP, MD international, said the transaction will take the company closer to the Chinese market, which is strategically important to the business.

“It will help us to identify potential brand acquisitions and develop new business opportunities for our unplaced brands.”

This transaction provides Iconix with full control and ownership of Iconix China, which also includes equity stakes in an additional six retail ventures of which four have plans to go public in the next five years and control over a portfolio of 15 unplaced brands.

Iconix Brand Group’s global portfolio also includes Rampage, Mudd, Mossimo, Ocean Pacific, Danskin, Rocawear, Charisma, Starter, Zoo York, Sharper Image, Strawberry Shortcake and partnerships in Billionaire Boys Club, Ice Cream, Buffalo, Nick Graham and Pony brands.

In 2014, the company signed a joint venture with Global Brands Group and is experiencing solid gains in both the top line and equity earnings.

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