Lee Cooper goes to Matalan

Bridgepoint Capital, Phoenix Equity Partners and other shareholders have sold branded jeans and casual clothing company, Lee Cooper to fashion retailer, Matalan for GBP45 million (E74.5 million). The business is being acquired free of debt and the transaction is being funded from Matalan’s existing resources and banking facilities. The audited net assets of Lee Cooper at December 31, 2000, excluding certain loan notes and other indebtedness repaid at completion, were GBP15.3 million.

Lee Cooper was taken private in 1994, when Bridgepoint acquired a majority shareholding of 40 per cent in the company and Phoenix Equity Partners a 13 per cent share.

James Murray of Bridgepoint said the timing was right for the sale of the company: “The denim market is making a comeback and so that presented us with the perfect window to sell the stake.”

Lee Cooper is Europe’s second largest branded jeans company and is the number two brand in five European countries, including France, Belgium and Switzerland. The company employs around 1,100 people and audited turnover for the year ended December 31, 2000 was GBP59 million, with operating profit of GBP4 million and profit before tax of GBP0.5 million.

The acquisition will complement Matalan’s existing Falmer jeans brand, acquired in 1999 and Lee Cooper’s distribution facility and brand experience will provide the opportunity to expand the Falmer brand throughout Europe.

Paul Hick will remain chief executive of Lee Cooper, which will continue to act as a stand alone division within Matalan under its current management. The company’s manufacturing experience and world class production facilities should also allow Matalan to benefit from cost advantages and faster and more flexible product delivery.

Hick said of the move: “We are delighted to be joining such a fast growing and dynamic organisation.

We are excited by the opportunity to accelerate the growth and market outperformance we are enjoying, as the market enters a strong period of revival for denim brands.”

Close Brothers and Travers Smith Braithwaite acted for Bridgepoint and Matalan was advised by UBS Warburg, Clifford Chance and PricewaterhouseCoopers.