After failing to seal a deal for Waterford Wedgwood, American investment firm Clarion Capital Partners has succeeded in buying one of American’s leading giftware companies for a knockdown price.
Clarion won a bankruptcy auction in New York last week to acquire all the assets of Lenox Group Inc, the well-known china, tabletop and gift manufacturer and marketer.
Only weeks before, KPS Capital Partners, who finally agreed a takeover of Waterford Crystal and Wedgwood’s other subsidiaries last Friday, had won an auction for most of the company. But Clarion came in with a better offer before contracts were approved.
Peter Cameron, previously CEO of Waterford Wedgwood plc, will take up the same position at Lenox as soon as the transaction closes later this month. While the specifics of the sale haven’t been released, it includes the Lenox, Dansk, Gorham and Department 56 brands.
The acquisition is valued at approximately $100 million inclusive of cash and assumption of certain liabilities.
The bankruptcy court approved the Clarion proposition after the bidding process was reopened during a hearing last Wednesday. Lenox filed for bankruptcy protection in November, citing declining revenue and a poor US retail climate.
In mid-February, KPS announced that it had emerged as the successful bidder for Lenox’s assets. It was expected they would merge the acquisition with Waterford Wedgwood.
However, a group led by Clarion re-entered the running last week and pulled off what looks to be a major coup.
Marc Utay, founder and Managing Partner of Clarion Capital Partners, said: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to invest in this truly iconic American brand.”
Mr Cameron described joining Lenox as “an extraordinary opportunity.” Lenox, he said, represents the high water mark in fine American china, with unrivalled product design and manufacturing capabilities within the US and around the world.
The group sells products through wholesale customers who operate gift, specialty and department store locations in the States and Canada, as well as through company-operated retail stores and direct to consumer channels.
Lenox products have been used in the White House by each President since 1918 and are routinely given by the State Department as gifts to visiting dignitaries and royalty. “How could anyone not be excited about the opportunity to work with such an American treasure?” Mr Cameron added.
The man he’s taking over from, Marc Pfefferle, said: “We are pleased that Lenox has found a home with the Clarion team which has the expertise and capital to grow our great brands. Certainly, Peter Cameron has the knowledge and experience to provide the leadership and guidance to develop the full potential of our brands and our employees.”
New York-based Clarion’s offer for Waterford Wedgwood was spearheaded locally by John Foley, former chief executive of Waterford Crystal.
The consortium’s bid was favoured by unions and workers at Kilbarry given its stated guarantee of a ten-year manufacturing contract, but they were unable to agree a deal with Receiver David Carson of Deloitte, who announced an agreement had been reached with KPS last weekend.