Authentic Brands wins auction for HMX

by Harry Sheff

NEW YORK—HMX Group has been saved and its U.S. factories will remain open. The new owner of HMX’s intellectual property is Authentic Brands Group (ABG), a licensing and brand development company whose portfolio includes action sports/mixed martial arts brand Tapout, the Marilyn Monroe brand, the Prince tennis brand and the Ektelon racquetball brand. A second company led by HMX CEO Doug Williams has acquired the operations.

“Authentic Brands, the stalking horse bidder, was able to prevail yesterday in the auction for the assets of the HMX Group,” Williams told MR today. “Authentic Brands obviously put a very credible offer on the table that has the full support of the unions and the creditor committee.”

Williams called the Chicago and Rochester factories for Hart Schaffner Marx and Hickey Freeman “critical assets to the company.” ABG president and chief marketing officer Nick Woodhouse added, “Part of the reason we acquired these brands is because we are committed to American manufacturing. We think there’s some white space, globally, for made in America tailored clothing brands, and for sportswear as well.”

Williams explained that ABG has acquired the intellectual property and his new company, W Diamond Group, has acquired the operating company and its assets. W Diamond Group will be licensed to use the trademarks for 40 years.

Asked to define ABG’s role in the HMX brands going forward, ABG’s Woodhouse said, “We are a licensor, an IP-based company, and we’ll work much like we do with all of our brands, like Marilyn Monroe, Tapout and Prince. We work hand in hand with our licensing partners to further the strength and breadth of the brands.”

“We fundamentally think of it as sale leaseback of the brands to get the transaction done,” Williams said. “With Authentic Brands’ expertise in marketing and product promotion, we look forward to their involvement in continuing to build the domestic market, but also to focus on the international markets.”

Asked what would change, Williams said, “Number one, the company will be well-capitalized to move forward and focus on our Hickey Freeman, Hart Schaffner Marx, Bobby Jones, Misook, Christopher Blue and Jag brands. We will not be operating several of the businesses that were part of the Group previously, primarily what we call our special markets area, which was Austin Reed and Pierre Cardin. This will allow us to be a very streamlined company focusing on what I’m going to call the premium and the luxury markets.”

Noel Beasley of Workers United, the union that represents the workers at the Hart Schaffner Marx and Hickey Freeman factories, called the deal a big victory. “Three or four months ago the company was just a couple days away from being completely liquidated,” he said. “In talking with ABG CEO Jamie Salter, he’s put together a very forward-looking plan to access global retailing in a way that neither Hickey Freeman nor Hart Schaffner Marx were able to in prior periods of ownership. He believes, and we concur, that both brands can be very successful and popular around the world, and we think he can broaden and deepen business that could add to the number of jobs in both facilities. We want to work with him to make sure that succeeds.”

HMX Group filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October. By the first week of November, Individualized Apparel Group had agreed to acquire HMX’s Hamilton, Ontario-based Coppley business.