Belstaff sold to chemicals giant, plans for brand to come "in due course"
The Jimmy Choo sale completes this week and just as it prepares for life under its new owner, another Jab Luxury stablemate has announced its own sale. News came Monday that Belstaff has been sold. So which major fashion and luxury name is the new owner? None of them actually. It has been sold to UK-based chemicals firm Ineos.
Announcing the news on Monday, Ineos trumpeted the return of the brand to British ownership but said nothing about its reasoning behind the purchase in such a different area to its core operations.
Unlike the Michael Kors purchase of Choo, the sale price hasn’t been disclosed and it looks like we won’t be getting the kind of blow-by-blow detail on every slight development in the transaction process as Ineos is Britain’s largest privately owned company so is under little obligation to share information.
Importantly though, what that means is that Belstaff’s new owner is as rich as any giant luxury conglomerate and has the resources to support the brand’s growth ambitions.
So what’s the story? Ineos is, of course, a surprise buyer of the brand and fashion insiders could be forgiven for not having heard of it. As mentioned, its main specialities are chemicals, plus oil (it’s a big player in North Sea oil). A list of its businesses on its website include very un-fashiony names like Ineos Nitriles and Ineos Polyolefin Catalyst. Now perhaps it needs to add Ineos fashion.
The company said that Belstaff will remain a separate entity within its business, which makes sense given how different it is to the rest of the group. And it said the acquisition and transfer of ownership is targeted to complete during the current quarter, subject to the receipt of regulatory approvals.
What will Ineos do now? We don’t know that yet. The company said Monday that its “plans for Belstaff will be announced in due course.” It’s news we await with interest because, as well as the deep pockets Belstaff needs, the new owner has one of Britain’s most dynamic (if low-profile) leaders at its helm. Ineos was founded 19 years ago by self-made billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, who is one of Britain’s richest men. He has turned it into a group ranked in the top 200 largest companies in the world by Forbes with sales of around $40 billion.
Belstaff, which recently opened standalones in Japan and Canada, was founded almost 100 years ago, in 1924, and began producing jackets in Stoke-on-Trent. It was the first company in the world to use waxed cotton to manufacture 'breathable' yet waterproof clothing. It has strong links with exploration, aviation and motorsport but has also had a stronger fashion profile in its more recent history.
Today the brand is known globally with stores in Europe, North America and Asia and employs around 200 people. But it has struggled to grow in a crowded and increasingly competitive luxury market.
The company has been lossmaking in recent periods, although we don’t know by how much as its previous owner didn’t break out separate figures for the brand. It was acquired by Jab for around £100 million in 2011 and some analysts had suggested that it could be sold for a figure this time in the low single-digit millions.
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