Advent backs French fashion brand

Advent will add family-owned French fashion brand Gérard Darel to its extensive retail portfolio. The firm, which has had a local presence in France since 1997, is looking to international expansion to maximise the value of its investment.

Global private equity firm Advent International has agreed to take a majority stake in French fashion retailer Gérard Darel alongside the Darel family and the company’s management team.

“[The management team] is doing well and we don’t want to change that,”Advent International partner Pascal Stefani told PEO. “That’s why we call it a partnership.”

He declined to provide the deal’s financial details, but said: “We’ve been successful in raising debt, which in the current market environment is always a bit challenging and probably even more in the retail and fashion sector, so we have worked tremendously on that issue.”

Stefani added: “The value that we want to extract from this deal will obviously come much more from the growth and the internationalisation of the company than from the leverage, so leverage was necessary but it was not useful for us to try to get heavy leverage.”

Founded in 1971 in Paris, Gérard Darel goods are distributed through 90 proprietary shops, 140 department stores and 1,200 multi-brand boutiques.

The mid- to high-end women’s fashion brand has a presence in more than 40 countries but is most established in Western Europe. The partnership with Advent is intended to aid Gérard Darel’s competitiveness in global markets.

The Darel family and management had actively looked for a partner to support the company. “They understood that the best thing for them would be to structure it as a buyout to incentivise the management team and do it with Advent because we have experience in the sector and, in the mid-market in France, we are clearly the most international player,” said Stefani.

Boston-based Advent opened its Paris office in 1997 and has since invested in French companies including software provider Sophis, travel retailer Dufry and European sports rights agency Sportfive. Its retail clothing portfolio includes Stokomani in France and Takko Fashion in Germany. In 2007, the firm sold UK fashion brand Fat Face to European buyout firm Bridgepoint and took public athletic apparel retailer lululemon athletica.

“When you deal with a family, it is important to have the local contact because there are many things that are emotional about the company they have created,” said Stefani.

Advent has raised €15 billion ($23.6 billion) in private equity capital since its founding in 1984. The firm closed its fourth Central and Eastern European fund on €1 billion in April, shortly after closing its most recent global fund on €6.6 billion.

Edmond de Rothschild Corporate Finance and the law firm Bredin Prat advised Gérard Darel. Calyon and the law firm Weil Gotshal & Manges advised Advent International.