Graphite in £215m luxury shoes exit

The firm has sealed the first exit from its seventh fund, selling luxury shoe retailer Kurt Geiger to listed apparel and footwear company The Jones Group.

Graphite Capital, a UK-based mid-market firm, has sold luxury shoe retailer Kurt Geiger to NYSE-listed apparel and footwear company The Jones Group for £215 million (€243 million; $352 million).

Kurt Geiger is Europe’s largest designer shoe retailer, with more than 100 brands including Gucci and UGG. Graphite acquired the company for £95 million in 2008, investing from its seventh fund that closed on £475 million in 2007. The sale marks the first exit for the fund, which is more than 50 percent invested, according to the firm.

“What we liked about the business was it wasn’t too dependent on the UK economic environment,” Graphite senior partner Andy Gray told Private Equity International. “It went into a number of different markets rather than just playing a UK consumer game.”

Under Graphite’s ownership, sales at Kurt Geiger increased by more than 70 percent, as of April 2011. The company expanded into markets in the Middle East and Russia, among others, and opened 24 stand-alone stores in the UK since Graphite’s original investment.

Graphite invests across a wide variety of industries but has had a strong focus on the consumer and retail sector for the past 20 years. Previous investments include electronics specialist Maplin and Japanese noodle bar chain wagamama, both of which earned the firm around 10x returns on investment.