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Switzerland's Maus Freres buys control of Lacoste

By
Reuters
Published
today Oct 29, 2012
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GENEVA/PARIS - Switzerland's Maus Freres Group has agreed to buy an additional 30.3 percent stake in Lacoste SA, on top of the 35 percent it already holds and valuing the classic French sportswear maker at between 1.0 billion and 1.25 billion euros ($1.29-$1.62 billion).

The sellers are a group of family shareholders including Michel Lacoste, former chairman and chief executive of Lacoste and the son of Rene Lacoste, the founder of the brand that bears the crocodile symbol.

Swiss family-held group Maus Freres said in a statement issued in Geneva on Friday it was offering the same conditions to buy the shares of the remaining family shareholders.

The deal comes amid a Lacoste family feud over the management of the brand that has pitted Michel Lacoste against his daughter, Sophie Lacoste-Dournel, who was named nonexecutive chairman in September.

Michel Lacoste opposed his daughter's nomination, saying that Maus, which has three voting members on the company's board, had convinced part of the family to form an alliance and take control of the brand.

Maus controls 35 percent of Lacoste through its unit Devanlay, while the balance of the shares is held by 22 Lacoste family members, who have rights of first refusal on the disposal of each other's shares.

The deal, which is subject to fulfillment of a number of conditions that the Swiss group did not specify, would assure the future of the chic sportswear maker, to the benefit of employees, licencees, partners, distributors and customers, Maus Freres said.

Maus Freres Group, which had sales of 5.3 billion Swiss francs ($5.67 billion) in 2011, owns department stores and home-improvement chains in Switzerland and also distributes clothing brands such as Gant worldwide.

Representatives of Lacoste SA were not immediately available to comment.

($1 = 0.9353 Swiss francs) ($1 = 0.7733 euros) (Reporting by Tom Miles and Stephanie Nebehay, additional reporting by Elena Berton in Paris; editing by Helen Massy-Beresford and Matthew Lewis)

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