Maus Frères Holding, the Swiss retail and wholesale conglomerate, has created a new entity, the MF Brands Group, or MF Group, to put together Lacoste, Tecnifibre, Aigle and its other sports and fashion brands under common management for greater “coherence, integration and internationalization.” The company, which was previously called Maus Frères International, says it wants to implement “a common strategic orientation in order to develop a portfolio of premium brands,” indicating that it might be ready for other acquisitions, but a spokesperson for the group said that it is not considering any specific takeovers at this time.
The MF Group is already a major factor in the sports, fashion and lifestyle markets. In 2019, its revenues increased by 15 percent year-on-year to €2.643 billion. With the licensees’ revenues included, the figure rises to €3.21 billion. According to the group, all brands maintained steady growth over the year. Lacoste, the biggest brand within the group with annual sales of more than €2 billion, reportedly grew by 11 percent.
The new group will operate under the supervision of Thierry Guibert, who remains chief executive of Lacoste and is now also the CEO of the MF Brands Group. He has strongly developed Lacoste since he was appointed at its helm five years ago, repositioning the brand in the premium segment of the sports lifestyle market. After Lacoste’s acquisition in 2017 of Tecnifibre, the French tennis and squash specialist, he indicated a wish to develop the brand in the performance sports sector as well.
The Maus Frères group started as a retailer in Switzerland at the end of the 19th century by setting up the first department store under the Manor banner. The Maus brothers than joined forces with the Nordmann family to develop a grocery business, which is now represented by the Jumbo supermarket stores. The group moved into sports retailing in 1995 by setting up the first store in a chain of sporting goods stores, Athleticum, which it merged two years ago with Decathlon, forming a joint venture to develop a big chain in Switzerland under the Decathon banner alone.
Maus Frères moved into the wholesale and brand licesing business in 1998 with its acquisition of a 90 percent stake in Devanlay, the main distributor and major shareholder of Lacoste. It bought the rest of the shares from the Lacoste family four years later. In 2003, it took over control of Aigle, a French brand of outdoor apparel and footwear, and repositioned it like Lacoste in the sports lifestyle segment of the market. It becama the major shareholer of Gant in 2008. Last May, it added The Kooples, a French brand of accessible, premium ready-to-wear for men and women, to its portfolio.
All these brands have their own stores, and all of them are now operating under the MF Group’s umbrella. Several changes were made last year to the group’s management structure, notably with the appointments of new CEOs for some of the brands. Romain Guinier, a former manager of Louis Vuitton who had led Aigle since 2008, was placed in charge of The Kooples. Sandrine Conseiller, former marketing manager of Lacoste, took over his place at the head of Aigle. Patrik Söderström was promoted as CEO of Gant. Nicolas Préault, the former French country manager of Arena, has remained in charge of Tecnifibre.
The role of the new group structure will be to “continue to encourage imagination and creation in all its aspects in order to support growth and to create value in the long term, while respecting the identity, independence and individuality of each of the brands,” said the MF Group.
Putting together all its wholesale and retail operations, Maus Frères Holdings has an annual turnover of around six billion Swiss francs (€5.7bn-$6.3bn), according to Wikipedia.