Bill Blass Now Part of NexCen

by MR Magazine Staff

LAS VEGAS – The potential-laden Bill Blass trademark has moved to a new owner.

NexCen Brands has completed its acquisition of Bill Blass Holding Co. and two of its subsidiaries. The sellers, Haresh Tharani and Michael Groveman, were paid $54.6 million, $15.5 million of it in the form of NexCen stock and the remainder in cash.

As announced when the parties agreed to the acquisition in December, Designer Licensing Holdings has been licensed to market men’s and women’s denim under the Blass name, and an affiliate of the licensee has acquired a 10% stake in the firm’s Bill Blass trademark subsidiary.

DLH will take over the Blass denim rights from Resource Club, of which Tharani is chairman, this fall. Groveman and designer Michael Vollbracht will continue their involvement in the Blass couture business.

“We have exciting plans for Bill Blass which we intend to implement immediately,” commented Robert D’Loren, president and chief executive officer of NexCen.

Evidence of NexCen’s plans to move quickly were evident at MAGIC this week as Chuck Zona, executive vice president of NexCen, made the rounds of the trade show in the company of Groveman.

Groveman has every reason to want to help the new owners of the Blass name. At the time of the acquisition agreement, NexCen said it would pay the sellers $16.2 million in cash or stock if gross royalties during the current year reach specified but undisclosed targets. However, the parties said that 2007 royalties are expected to reach $10 million and also benefit NexCen’s earnings per share by 7 cents.

Among marketers in the menswear business, there is near unanimity about the enduring power of the Blass name. “It never got tainted,” said an executive of one men’s furnishings company. “Whatever was going on with its distribution, Bill Blass still means refined fashion to U.S. consumers, and he’s got excellent name recognition among men, too. This could become a brand to watch in menswear once again.”

As one of the pioneers of American designer fashion and, with John Weitz, one of the first of American stylists to have an influence on men’s fashions, Blass had a widespread impact both on runway fashions and, through an extensive roster of licensees, retail sales at the sub-couture level.

Blass died in 2002 at the age of 79. Tharani and Groveman bought the name in 1999 for $50 million with financing, in the form of asset-based securities, arranged by CAK Universal Credit Corp, of which D’Loren was then a principal.

Blass was the first designer brand acquired by NexCen, which last October acquired The Athlete’s Foot. On Wednesday, NexCen agreed to buy MaggieMoo’s and Marble Slab Creamery, positioning it for an immediate presence in the premium ice cream category.