Industry sources had previously told The Deal that Oxford Industries was likely to shed the Ben Sherman unit. It is part of the larger story of the gradual unraveling of the "Seventh Avenue" model of wholesale apparel that largely catered to now-ailing department-store chains.
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Perry Ellis International (PEI) - Get Report, based in Miami, is also a part of the trend. Earlier this month, it said it agreed to sell the C&C California brand to ACH C&C for undisclosed terms. Perry Ellis has been under pressure from activist investor Legion Partners Asset Management.
More divestitures may be coming as Perry Ellis President Oscar Feldenkreis has said the company will focus on its core brands of Perry Ellis, Original Penguin, Rafaella, Laundry and Golf.
Perry Ellis' other brands include Jantzen, Cubavera, Centro, Savane, Natural Issue, Havanera Co., Gotcha, MCD, John Henry, Mondo di Marco, Redsand, Manhattan, Axist, Farah, Anchor Blue, Miller's Outpost, Tahoe River Outfitters, Original Khaki Company and Techworks.
Likely bidders for both non-core Perry Ellis brands and Oxford Industries' Ben Sherman include private-equity as well as branding and marketing firms that acquire intellectual property or trademarks and then license them.
"Ben Sherman made great progress in 2014 and left the year with positive momentum, which we believe now positions it as an attractive acquisition target. With the aim of achieving long-term value for our shareholders, we have concluded that the sale of Ben Sherman is the right course of action. We have initiated a sale process and expect a timely conclusion," Oxford CEO Thomas Chubb said in a statement.
The company said it expects to complete the sale this year, but said there was no assurance a transaction would occur.
Oxford had a good fiscal fourth quarter, which it announced at the same time, with net sales up 10% to almost $275 million and net earnings of nearly $16 million. Its net sales for the fiscal year ended on Jan. 31 rose 9% to almost $998 million, while net earnings were almost $46 million.
While revenue was up at Ben Sherman, from about $67 million in fiscal 2013 to about $77 million in fiscal 2014, the brand had an operating loss for its most recent fiscal year of nearly $11 million, though that was better than the operating loss of about $13 million for 2013.
As of Jan. 31, Oxford Industries had $128 million available on its revolver, and about $109 million in debt, while cash stood at about $5 million.
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