3i cashes in on UK shirt maker

Ben Sherman, first backed by 3i in 1993 with a £4m cash injection, has been sold to US trade buyer Oxford Industries, for £80m.

Oxford Industries, an Atlanta, Georgia based garment maker listed on the New York Stock Exchange, has agreed to acquire Ben Sherman, the private equity backed UK shirt maker, for £80 million (€121.1 million; $146.4 million) in cash plus expenses.

Sherman is sold by 3i, Europe’s largest listed private equity provider, which first invested in the company in 1993. Back then, 3i injected £4 million of equity to support a management buyout at a time when the company was facing bankruptcy. In 2000, 3i confirmed its commitment to the business when it helped fund a second management-led transfer of ownership.

According to newspaper reports, 3i achieved a £46 million capital gain from its investments in Ben Sherman, which the firm said translated into an internal rate of return of more than 50 percent. Enterprise Equity also disposed of its interest in the company.  

The sale to Oxford is the latest in a series of realisations 3i has completed in recent months. Earlier this year the firm benefited from IPOs in the UK for portfolios companies including Cambridge Silicon Radio, Pixology and Pinewood Studios.

Kevin Lyon, a director at 3i, said in a statement that Ben Sherman’s success was an example of a business able to create value by expanding into new markets, notably the US. Ben Sherman, which started out in 1968 in London, today sells its wares in the US, Canada, continental Europe, Australia and the Far East.