Fat Face for Bridgepoint

Active clothing retailer Fat Face has been sold by owner Advent International to buyouts rival Bridgepoint for £360m.

Bridgepoint is aiming to tap into the growing active lifestyle clothing sector with this acquisition, which will sit alongside women’s footwear chain Faith and Italian perfume store Limoni in the portfolio. The firm estimates that Fat Face is operating in a market worth £2.2bn per year, growing faster than the overall UK clothing market.

Guy Weldon, a partner at Bridgepoint, said: “Fat Face has a unique and very distinct retail proposition which has been developed successfully by an experienced and established management team. It operates in a high growth segment of the clothing market with strong brand appeal and has demonstrated resilient and consistent like-for-like performance.”

The sale by Advent comes two years after the firm backed a secondary buyout of the business from founders Tim Slade and Jules Leaver and backers ISIS Equity Partners. Both Slade and Leaver retained a stake at that time and continue to do so under the new arrangement. Both gave up the day-to-day running of the business in 2003 with Louise Barnes and Stuart Owens taking over the reins as CEO and financial director respectively. Both will continue to manager Fat Face under Bridgepoint’s ownership, and will, alongside the rest of the management team, be reinvesting in the business.

Fat Face is forecast to have £111m of turnover and run rate EBITDA of £30.4m for the year ended May 31st, 2007. When Advent acquired it the company was on the verge of opening its 100th store and had outlets in the UK, Ireland France. It now operates 128 retail stores, mail order catalogues and an internet store, employing over 1,500 employees. It expanded its overseas operations to stores in Iceland and Dubai, which are franchise agreements, and Bridgepoint plans to open stores in the Middle East, Hong Kong and Singapore. In the UK, it is anticipated that up to 15 new stores a year will be opened.

The deal is Advent’s second European exit of 2006, the first coming in February when it sold its three year old stake in Parques Reunidos, a Spanish leisure park operator, to UK buyouts firm Candover for around €900m.