It’s been a rough couple of years for the label. Founded in 1968 by Jil Sander, it became famous for its minimalist designs and palette, which women found to be stylish, practical and flattering. Even though the company had gone public on the Frankfort exchange in 1989, Sander realized that to keep growing the brand she would need deeper pockets and so in 1999 sold 75% of the company to Milanese fashion giant Prada. But management and creative differences with Prada CEO Patrizio Bertelli –and husband of the company founder’s grand-daughter and chief designer Miuccia Prada–led to Sander leaving the company and without Sander the label suffered. When Prada sold it to London-based British private equity firm, Change Capital Partners in February 2006 for an estimated $120 million, the label was heavily in debt and a shadow of its former self.
Today Jil Sander is in better shape and CCP is reportedly looking to unload Sander and profit from its original investment. As Woollard blogs: “Vogue UK reports that Change Capital Partners is looking for offers off around 200 million euros which is believed to be double what they may have bought the company for. This on a company that, for the year ended January 31, announced profits of 6 million euros on sales of 131 million euros.”
The question, of course, is who would buy it? Another private equity group is unlikely–unless they already owned other labels that they could then combine their holdings together and sell the whole thing off at a premium. Permira Advisers, which owns Valentino Fashion Group, comes to mind. But more likely might be one of the big luxury conglomerates, such as Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) or PPR SA (PRTP), which might see Sander as a good fit to their existing stables. One of the reasons why the Prada relationship fell apart was that Sander disliked the strategy it was taking by developing secondary lines and a bridge collections, two courses she had always opposed. But with Sander gone and the company performing well under the creative direction of Raf Simons, that is no longer a concern to potential acquirers. A third possibility is that Sander herself may step back in, with third-party backing, to retake control of her eponymous brand.