Lilly Pulitzer has a new owner...sold for a cool $60 million. Not exactly money you have stashed under the mattress, but still, I'm a bit surprised that a brand with such a storied history, and yet has thoroughly modernized its look, isn't worth more. Are you?
December 21, 2010, 7:16 pm
Prep Stays Hot as Lilly Pulitzer Is Sold for $60 Million
By MICHAEL J. DE LA MERCED
A retrospective of Lilly Pulitzer’s offerings, linked to from Oxford’s Web site.In the world of deal-making, prep is still in, and pink is looking awfully pretty.
One month after J. Crew agreed to sell itself to two buyout firms, the parent company of Lilly Pulitzer — the maker of eye-catching dresses for the horsey set — sold itself on Tuesday to Oxford Industries for $60 million in cash.
Slim Aarons/Hulton Archive/Getty Images Two Lilly Pulitzer customers from 1964.Oxford’s interest in Lilly Pulitzer isn’t too surprising, as fashion continues its love affair with all things preppy. Its less-than-stellar third-quarter results notwithstanding, J. Crew is still regarded as one of the more popular retailers of today. And this spring, Tommy Hilfiger sold itself to Phillips-Van Heusen for about $3 billion, on the heels of a return to its colorfully striped roots.
But Lilly Pulitzer is perhaps one of the echt totems of prephood: No less an authority than “The Official Preppy Handbook” declared that the company’s golf skirt and beach dress were must-haves for Muffie and her friends.
The company was built by a woman steeped in the culture of its customers: Ms. Pulitzer, a New Yorker whose mother was connected to the Standard Oil fortune, and resettled in Palm Beach, Fla. Her designs — a mix of bright pinks and greens was a common motif — caught the attention of well-heeled resort patrons like Jackie Kennedy. (For a sartorial slideshow, check out the above YouTube video, which Oxford links to on its own Web site. You can also check out The Times’s review of its Madison Square emporium.)
But Ms. Pulitzer closed the company in 1984, only to let entrepreneurs Scott A. Beaumont and James B. Bradbeer Jr. revive the brand in 1993, while she served as a creative consultant.
Under the new management team, Lilly Pulitzer branched out into bedding, mens wear and stationery. It now runs 16 stores and a Web site that accounts for 45 percent of its direct-to-consumer sales. And it also sells clothes through upscale department stores and third-party Lilly Pulitzer Signature outlets.
Oxford’s president, the aptly named Thomas Caldecot Chubb III, said in an analyst conference call on Tuesday that his company had approached Lilly Pulitzer, which wasn’t marketing itself.
“As we got to know each other, we quickly realized that there is an excellent strategic and cultural fit,” Mr. Chubb said on the call.
Oxford, based in Atlanta, already owns brands like the resort-minded Tommy Bahama, as well as Ben Sherman and Arnold Brant. According to a regulatory filing, it expects its new purchase to contribute more than $75 million in sales, $11 million in operating income and 40 cents a share in profits for its 2011 fiscal year.
Under the terms of the deal, Oxford will pay $60 million for Sugartown Worldwide, Lilly Pulitzer’s parent company. Oxford will pay up to $20 million in additional payments if the clothier hits certain earnings targets.
Mr. Beaumont and Mr. Bradbeer will continue to run the company as a unit of Oxford.