As It Closes In on Barneys, How ABG Went from Startup to $10B Powerhouse

Samantha McDonald

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Less than a decade has passed since the launch of Authentic Brands Group, but founder Jamie Salter has already established the company as a fashion and footwear powerhouse.

The New York-based group has expanded from a small business focused on icons like Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe to one of the most powerful players in the lifestyle and entertainment sectors, with a portfolio spanning 50 brands and nearly $10 billion in annual sales.

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“A couple years ago, we made a goal that we wanted to be very large in the shoe business — fashion footwear [in particular],” Salter told FN in December, when ABG was named Company of the Year at the 2018 FN Achievement Awards. “By doing what we did — buying Nine West, Bandolino, Vince Camuto and Frye — it made a spot in that business where we’re important to the customer. The world is getting smaller, and every deal was strategic.”

Now, ABG has emerged as the frontrunner to snap up Barneys New York amid its high-profile bankruptcy. According to a filing on Wednesday in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York, the luxury retailer has entered into an agreement to sell its assets to the brand management company and investment firm B. Riley Financial Inc. in a cash deal estimated at roughly $271.4 million.

While an auction to be held on Oct. 24 will ultimately decide Barneys’ fate, ABG’s bid has propelled its business into the spotlight, with retail experts and brand partners questioning the role it will play in its acquisition of the storied Manhattan institution.

As it prepares to close in on Barneys, FN looks back at some of ABG’s most notable investments, starting with its recent buzz-making deals:

May 2019: Sports Illustrated

ABG completed the $110 million purchase of the intellectual property of Sports Illustrated from Meredith Corp. this spring. The deal included SI’s associated brands, including Sports Illustrated Kids, Sportsperson of the Year and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit. As part of the acquisition, ABG assumed the marketing, business development and licensing of SI’s intellectual property and its brand.

April 2019: Volcom

Previously owned by French luxury group Kering SA, Volcom’s intellectual property rights were also bought by ABG this spring. The agreement detailed ABG’s minority stake in Liberated Brands, the newly formed operating company for Volcom. Volcom CEO Todd Hymel and its management team hold the majority stake in Liberated and maintain operations in the U.S., France, Japan and Australia, as well as oversee product development, athlete marketing and the company’s retail and wholesale businesses.

October 2018: Camuto Group

For its buyout of Camuto Group last fall, ABG made a nearly unprecedented move by teaming with DSW Inc. (now Designer Brands) on the $375 million deal. Under the terms of the agreement, the pair jointly acquired the intellectual property of Camuto Group’s brand portfolio, including Vince Camuto, Louise et Cie, Sole Society and Enzo Angiolini. ABG took the majority stake of 60%, while DSW acquired the remainder 40%.

July 2018: Nine West 

ABG became the new owner of shoe and accessory labels Nine West and is sister label Bandolino following a bankruptcy auction where it had reportedly beat out DSW Inc. The winning offer of $340 million was higher than the stalking-horse bid it had put in when Nine West Holdings Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April. As part of the transaction, ABG assumed all licensing partnerships and marketing initiatives for the Nine West and Bandolino brands.

April 2018: Nautica

Nautica’s marketing and licensing functions went to ABG in this deal last year, although the financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed. The company recruited Aero OpCo, which manages operations for Aéropostale, to run other aspects of the formerly VF Corp.-owned label, including its retail stores and e-commerce platform. At the time, the deal was said to be ABG’s largest brand acquisition to date.

April 2017: Frye

ABG bought a 51% majority stake in Frye from Global Brands Group — the first co-ownership between the two brand management firms, which have a history of collaborations. According to the deal’s terms, ABG and GBG would both expand the heritage boot brand into new categories, as well as open standalone stores and shop-in-shop locations. (FN sister publication WWD reported that the purchase closed for $100 million.)

October 2016: Aéropostale

A year and a half before snapping up Nautica, ABG took on Aéropostale by leading a consortium that also comprised real estate giants General Growth Properties and Simon Property Group. The acquisition, which was approved in bankruptcy court in mid-September 2016, saved thousands of jobs and maintained operations at 700 stores around the world, including 400 in the U.S. and Canada and 300 across Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

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