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Financial - Tillman and Earl Buy Aquascutum - 29-09-2009
Tillman and Earl Buy Aquascutum
UK retail entrepreneur Harold Tillman and business associate Belinda Earl have acquired storied UK brand Aquascutum from Japan’s Renown Inc., for an undisclosed price. The pair made the acquisition through their London-based holding Broadwick Group Limited, the company which owns the Jaeger fashion house, of which Earl is CEO. As part of the deal, Renown also agreed that YGM Trading, the Hong Kong and Chinese Licensee for Aquascutum, could acquire the rights for the Asia business for the UK brand.
Aquascutum was founded in England in 1851, and got its name when John Emary invented a shower-proof cloth for outerwear, made up from Latin ‘aqua’ - meaning water - and ‘scutum’ – meaning shield. “We are pleased to be able to return this global luxury heritage fashion brand to British ownership. The Aquascutum brand has a strong positioning in the international arena and has seen significant investment in recent years”, insisted Tillman in a release. In 1909, Aquascutum opened its first UK factory, and visitors since have included Cary Grant, Charles Laughton, Margot Fonteyn, Princess Anne and Margaret Thatcher. As part of the deal, Renown will continue to manufacture and distribute Aquascutum in Japan with a long-term agreement with YGM. Renown Incorporated purchased Aquascutum in 1990 for 20 billion yen, or $127 million at the time.
This spring, Aquascutum’s CEO Kim Winser abruptly quit her position, after Renown rejected her attempt to mount a management buyout. Aquascutum’s main fashion collection has received positive support from local British fashion critics, but more tepid reaction from visiting reviewers. However, Aquascutum Ltd., the men’s wear line designed by Nick Hart for the venerable British brand, did garner critical plaudits. Tillman, who also happens to be Chairman of both the British Fashion Council, and acquired Jaeger in 2003, hiring Earl away from her post as Chief Executive of department store chain Debenhams to be CEO in September 2004. The pair are credited with turning Jaeger into a profitable business with worldwide sales of £140 million, or $231 million. The release claimed that the combined global brand sales will be in excess of 300 million sterling, or $495 million, suggesting global sales of some 160 million sterling, or $264 million, for Aquascutum. However, Renown added that the sale will generate extraordinary loss of about 3.5 billion yen, or about $40 million, for its third-quarter accounts of 2009, indicating that returning Aquascutum to profitability will not be easy. Nonetheless, Tillman and Earl were in a buoyant mood about the future. “Belinda and I have worked successfully together for the last five years and our strong track record, experience and complimentary skills will enable us to continue the development of the Aquascutum brand world-wide”, Tillman said in the release. Let the turnaround begin.