Glossy 50 2023: The People Who Shaped Fashion & Beauty This Year
The founder and managing partner of Sandbridge Capital has carved out a special and successful niche within consumer private equity over the last 12 years.
The Dealmakers: The transactions of these business leaders transformed fashion and beauty.
Ken Suslow is passion personified.
The founder and managing partner of Sandbridge Capital has carved out a special and successful niche within consumer private equity over the last 12 years. Investments in the past 12 months include Ariana Grande’s R.E.M. Beauty and Tina Craig’s U Beauty skin-care brand, plus the first outside investment for Michelle Pfeiffer’s Henry Rose fragrance brand. Former portfolio brands are equally notable, including Ilia, which sold to Courtin-Clarins in 2022 for an undisclosed sum; Youth To The People, which sold to L’Oréal in 2021 for an undisclosed sum; and Thom Browne, which sold to Zegna Group in 2018 when it was valued at $500 million.
Suslow described Sandbridge Capital’s investment philosophy as a “one-by-one, people-first” approach. He emphasized the importance of trust between Sandbridge Capital and its portfolio brands, including because it allows the firm to be both hands-on and hands-off when appropriate. In the case of more recent celebrity-led brand investments, Suslow was adamant that the clincher was not a notable name but, rather, differentiated brands and products.
“It has to be an amazing product; it can’t just be storytelling,” said Suslow. “We’re not going to come in [and invest] just because we think it’s a great opportunity with a [known] brand.”
Suslow’s approach is informed by his upbringing, where he was familiarized with the consumer brand world. His father worked in advertising for Women’s Wear Daily for 38 years. His uncle, Robert Suslow, was also a retail executive who presided over Saks Fifth Avenue, Ohrbach’s, Famous-Barr and Batus Retail during the 1970s and 1980s. This period showed Suslow how well brands can operate, but also how poorly they function when creative visions and bottom lines clash. Being able to grow revenue while driving impact on the consumer industry has positioned him as a power player in the investment world.
“Doing well and doing good [can] converge,” he said. “In some industries, you have to make tradeoffs between the two. In ours, thankfully you don’t.”