November 14, 2014

Sandbridge Buys Minority Stake in Rossignol

WWD – Rossignol is coming down off the slopes and making a run at becoming a fashion lifestyle brand with the help of Sandbridge Capital.

Sandbridge Buys Minority Stake in Rossignol

WWD has learned that Sandbridge is set to take a minority stake in the company today with the investment firm’s managing partner David Fife chairing a new subsidiary that will focus on building the ski business a fashion arm based in Milan.

The investment marks another front for Sandbridge, which is led by Chief Executive Officer Joseph Lamastra and has stakes in Derek Lam, Bonobos, Tamara Mellon, Karl Lagerfeld, Topshop and outdoor brand Stio. The investment firm counts an impressive roster of advisers including Tommy Hilfiger and former Crocs CEO Ron Snyder as well as former Gucci Chief Domenico De Sole, who will work closely with Fife on Rossignol.

The brand has a small apparel offering now, but Fife said he plans to build an “urban cool retro” fashion business that calls on the 107-year-old Rossignol’s heritage in the ski world, bringing back the name’s classic bird logo, for instance.

In addition to selling skiwear, Fife said Rossignol would market a broad range of looks for “a fashion person who spends money.” The exact assortment and price points will be ironed out as the subsidiary starts to come together and hires a designer as well as a CEO.

“Rossignol is a great heritage brand with tons of potential in the apparel sector,” De Sole said.

A higher-end fashion approach will help Rossignol stand out in an outdoor market filled with brands such as The North Face and Patagonia, which are known more for their technical prowess than their fashion cred. Rossignol also faces competition from the likes of European brands like Moncler and Peuterey.

Sandbridge also is taking its stake at a time when activewear and active-inspired fashions are among the fastest-growing categories at retail.

The move toward luxe is a new fashion tack for the company, though.

Rossignol was a well-publicized M&A wipeout for Quiksilver Inc., which bought the ski business for $320 million in 2005. But after a few rocky years and a failed attempt to create a mainstream lifestyle brand, Quiksilver sold the business for $50.8 million in 2008.

The ski side of the brand remained strong and that base will let Fife zero in on building the business.

“If you think about any retail apparel business like this, the basic levers that you have to grow your business are essentially wholesale, retail, e-commerce and then, if you’re doing really well, licensing,” Fife said. “In my opinion, there is no secret sauce. You have to do wholesale because there’s a design element, there’s a feedback loop that covers your fixed costs. Retail is very important to telling your story, but if you just build stores all day you’re going to run out of money. E-commerce is fabulous and is the future, but it’s not a panacea that’s going to solve all your problems. It’s the cadence of how you roll these out.”

Bruno Cercley, CEO of Rossignol, added: “Sandbridge provides valuable support on two key aspects. Firstly, its strong expertise will contribute to our efforts in developing lifestyle collections for all four seasons of the year, not only winter. Secondly, its deep retail industry network is a real asset, especially in North America. Leveraging Rossignol’s steeped tradition, we intend to develop a leading fashion brand oriented around our long-standing ethos of high levels of innovation and design.”

Rossignol is based in Moirans, France, and owns six winter sport brands — Rossignol and Dynastar skis, Look bindings, Lange boots, Kerma poles and Risport figure skates — producing revenues last year of nearly 230 million euros, or $305.4 million at average exchange. Textiles are believed to account for about 15 million euros, or $19.9 million, of total revenues.

Nordic-focused private equity firm Altor is the company’s majority shareholder.