EXCLUSIVE-Sale of yearbook maker Herff Jones parent for $1.5 bln near

Target: Herff Jones

Price: $1.5 bln (est.)

Seller: Varsity Brands

Buyer: Charlesbank Capital-led consortium

Financial adviser: Jefferies LLC (seller)

Herff Jones is also known for making the Super Bowl XLI rings for the Indianapolis Colts.

Boston-based Charlesbank has prevailed over other buyout firms in the auction for Varsity Brands Inc, which owns Herff Jones as well as sporting apparel company BSN Sports and cheer leading uniform maker Varsity Spirit, the sources said.

Charlesbank is teamed up with European investment firm Partners Group AG in its bid, the sources added.

The sources asked not to be named because the matter is not public. Partners Group declined to comment while Varsity Brands and Charlesbank did not respond to requests for comment.

Reuters reported in August that Indianapolis-based Varsity Brands hired investment bank Jefferies LLC to assist with a potential sale.

Herff Jones, which bought Varsity Brands in 2011, acquired BSN Sports in 2013 for $460 million and rebranded the entire company under the Varsity Brands banner in June.

Founded in 1920 by Harry J. Herff and Randall H. Jones, the firm manufacturers class rings, yearbooks, caps and gowns, and graduation diplomas. It also makes awards, including the Naismith award for college basketball athletes and championship rings. The company became 100 percent employee-owned in 1995.

A buyout of Varsity Brands would mark a relatively large deal for Charlesbank, which has more than $3 billion in assets and typically make investments of $50 million to $150 million in companies with valuations of up to $750 million.

Since 1991, the firm has invested over $3.3 billion in 70 companies, in consumer, education and healthcare sectors, according to its website.

Reporting by Soyoung Kim in Seoul and Olivia Oran and Greg Roumeliotis in New York for Reuters news service.