In November, a $1.15 billion deal came to light, bringing together Cartier’s parent company Richemont, Chinese e-commerce titan Alibaba, and fashion retail platform Farfetch. The headline-making transaction followed from reports that a “mega deal” was in the making. In addition to proving noteworthy because it brought together three very big names in the fashion sphere in furtherance of an effort that largely focuses on “providing luxury brands with enhanced access to the China market,” the alliance is striking, as it has given rise to speculation about a potential consolidation, with at least some analysts wondering aloud whether the $1.15 billion tie-up could be “a preamble” to Richemont merging Yoox Net-a-Porter with Farfetch or the Swiss conglomerate selling the fashion e-commerce pioneer to Alibaba.
Around the same time, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton decided to make good on an acquisition effort of its own, the one it had also been quietly (and then not so quietly) working towards: Tiffany & Co. Just a matter of days before the Farfetch-Alibaba-YNAP deal was confirmed, LVMH and Tiffany revealed that they had managed to put their rival lawsuits to bed and come to agreeable terms under which the famed New York-based jewelry stalwart could be brought under the ownership umbrella of the Paris-based luxury goods titan. In exchange for $15.8 billion, LVMH would acquire all shares in the formerly publicly-traded Tiffany & Co.
Both instances come as consolidation has been top of mind in the luxury space, where the biggest groups, such as Louis Vuitton-owner LVMH and Gucci’s parent company Kering, have amassed sizable rosters of brands over the past several decades, thereby, enabling them to benefit from sheer size and scale, while making it more difficult for independently-owned brands to compete. The havoc wreaked on brands’ balance sheets by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting shift online (and the expenses that come with doing that and doing it well) is expected to accelerate that existing industry activity even further.
“With the financial difficulties [brought about by COVID] in mind, many players, and in particular the smallest, will become more-affordable targets,” according to Isabelle Chaboud, an Associate Professor in the Finance, Accounting and Law Department of Grenoble Ecole de Management. “The most financially solid players – such as LVMH, Kering or Chanel – will no doubt have the option of buying out competitors, subcontractors and even suppliers.” And Kering, for one, is “actively on the hunt for new brands,” the group revealed in a Q4 conference call last month. (Although, it reportedly was unable to lure Richemont into a deal.)
With the foregoing in mind, here is a running list of the most recent acquisitions and investments in the luxury and broader fashion space dating back to LVMH’s headline-making deal with Tiffany & Co. …
Mar. 25, 2021 – Made in Italy Fund acquires Dondup
Made in Italy Fund has acquired Milan-based fashion brand Dondup from fellow private equity firm L Catterton for an undisclosed sum. “The fund said it aims at creating a fashion conglomerate with Dondup and other fashion brands it owns – 120%Lino, known for its linen clothes, and jewellery and accessories maker Rosantica – and expanding their foothold in Europe and the United States, Reuters reported. The firm also maintains a majority stake in 6-year old Italian streetwear label GCDS, which it acquired in November 2020.
Mar. 18, 2021 – OAMC founders buy back minority stake
In the opposite of a corporate acquisition, Luke Meier and Arnaud Faeh, the co-founders of Paris-based menswear brand OAMC, revealed that they have repurchased the minority stake in their company that they had sold to Onward Italia in 2018. As reported by WWD, Meier – who also moonlights as the creative director of Jil Sander alongside his wife Lucie – and Faeh asserted, “We felt that this was the right time to regain full control over the company, and to put ourselves in the best position to bring the brand to yet another level.”
Mar. 8, 2021 – Ferrari owner Exor takes 24% stake in Louboutin
Exor Group – the $30 billion Netherlands-incorporated investment group run by the Italian Agnelli family and the largest shareholder in Italian automaker Ferrari – announced that it will take a 24 percent stake in the independently-owned Louboutin in exchange for 541 million euros ($640 million), a deal that values the 30-year old Paris-based footwear brand at $2.3 billion euros ($2.73 billion) and sets it up for expansion, particularly in China.
Mar. 5, 2021 – Margiela-owner OTB acquires Jil Sander
Japanese apparel group Onward Holdings announced that it will sell the Jil Sander brand to Renzo Rosso’s luxury group, OTB, the parent of Diesel, Maison Margiela, Marni, Amiri, and Viktor & Rolf. The financial figures associated with that deal remain undisclosed.
Mar. 1, 2021 – Kering leads $216 million Vesitaire round
Kering and American investment firm Tiger Global Management are leading a new funding round that sees secondhand marketplace Vestiaire Collective bring in $216 million in new funding, along with existing investors, including its CEO Max Bittner, Vogue’s parent company Condé Nast, and the Eurazeo Group, among others. The deal gives Paris-based Vestiaire “unicorn status” – i.e., puts a $1 billion-plus value on the privately-held company – and “ideally positions it for its next cycle of accelerated growth.”
Dec. 9, 2020 – Exor Group acquires Shang Xia
Ferrari owner Exor Group announced that it will invest “around €80 million [$96.9 million] in Shang Xia via a reserved capital increase that will result in it becoming the company’s majority shareholder.” Exor noted that Hermès – which “has accompanied Shang Xia successfully throughout the initial phase of its development – will remain as an important shareholder alongside Exor and [founder] Jiang Qiong Er.”
Dec. 7, 2020 – Moncler acquires Stone Island
Moncler announced that it will acquire Italian fashion label Stone Island for $1.4 billion. Bloomberg reported that the Milan-headquartered luxury outerwear company will “purchase 70 percent of Stone Island’s parent company SPW from Chief Executive Officer Carlo Rivetti and other members of his family, [and] then buy the remaining 30 percent from Singapore’s state investor Temasek” in furtherance of a two-step transaction.
Nov. 9, 2020 – VF Corp. acquires Supreme for $2.1 billion
Three years after Supreme sold off a reported 50 percent stake to private equity giant Carlyle Group, VF Corp revealed that it will pay $2.1 billion to buy popular streetwear brand. The deal – which was formally completed on December 28, 2020 – saw VF Corp. take full ownership of Supreme, with current Supreme investors Carlyle Group and New York-based private equity firm Goode Partners agreeing to sell their stakes in the New York-based brand.
Nov. 5, 2020 – Alibaba, Richemont invest $1.1 billion in Farfetch
Alibaba Group Holding and Richemont announced that they will invest $1.1 billion in online luxury fashion retailer Farfetch and its new marketplace in China. At the same time, Artemis – an investment vehicle tied to Gucci owner Kering – simultaneously announced that it would increase its stake in Farfetch with a $50 million injection of cash in exchange for Farfetch’s Class A ordinary shares.
Oct. 29, 2020 – LVMH and Tiffany & Co. agree to $15.8 billion merger
LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Tiffany & Co. managed to salvage their meger deal, with the French luxury goods conglomerate agreeing to pay a few dollars less per share to acquire the New York-based jewelry company. In a statement, the parties confirmed that LVMH will pay $131.5 per Tiffany share, down from the $135/share price tag they initially agreed to in November 2019 before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
*This article was initially published on March 1, 2021, and has been updated accordingly.