Pentland announced yesterday that it has agreed to buy the perpetual rights to the Speedo brand in North America and the Caribbean and the related operations from PVH Corp. for $170 million in cash, uniting all the brand’s operations around the world under a common umbrella just in time for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, where it will enjoy a lot of public exposure.
We were wondering in our last issue what Pentland Group had in mind for its next investment after it sold some of its shares in JD Sports Fashion for £177.6 million (€208.6m-$232.0m), while retaining control of the profitable U.K.-based sports retail chain. The company owned by the family of Stephen Rubin and his son Andy had first invested in JD in 2004, paying £10 million for a stake of 11 percent, and it is now worth £8.07 billion (€9.48bn-$10.5bn) on the London Stock Exchange.
Speedo has not been growing much lately, reaching a global turnover of about $566 billion in 2018, with its sales declining slightly to $230 million in the U.S. and rising by 2 percent in the rest of the world.
PVH said it was divesting the business to concentrate on its main global brands, Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger. The group had inherited the North American Speedo license by acquiring Warnaco in 2013.
Pentland has long coveted global control of Speedo, the world’s leading swimwear brand and the biggest one in its portfolio ahead of Berghaus, Canterbury, Ellesse and Mitre. It first invested in Speedo in 1990 by acquiring a significant stake in Authentic Fitness, a subsidiary of Warnaco that had the exclusive license for North America.
Pentland had just come out of another major deal by selling Reebok for around $700 million, with a huge capital gain from its initial investment of $77,500 for a 55 percent stake. It soon after bought 80 percent of Speedo’s Europe subsidiary, and then acquired Speedo Australia and the parent company, Speedo International.
Speedo was founded in Sydney in 1914 by a Scottish milkman, Alexander MacRae, who made a fortune by making underwear and selling socks to the Australian Army. Its swimwear was named Speedo in 1928 after a contest among his staff. Warnaco took the rights for North America in the 1950s in exchange for an Australian license for its White Stag skiwear line.