No sum was disclosed for the transaction, in which Lion Capital was advised by SJ Berwin and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Contessa is the London-based private equity firm’s second investment in the UK lingerie retail sector in the last few months, after buying La Senza in July from controlling shareholder Paphitis, also for an undisclosed sum, although reports at the time suggested the business changed hands for approximately £100m. Paphitis, the entrepreneur behind Ryman stationery who features on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den television programme, retained a minority stake in La Senza following the buyout.
He is understood to have bought La Senza for £1 in 1999 and has increased sales by 13% to £94m last year and the number of stores from 40 to 103 as part of a turnaround strategy. Last month, Lion Capital appointed Rose Foster, head of the Monsoon fashion chain, as chief executive of La Senza.
“La Senza’s acquisition of Contessa will further solidify its leading position in the UK lingerie market and give the company a presence in a number of UK towns where it is absent today,” said Robert Darwent, a founding partner of Lion Capital.
Lion Capital, which was spun out of US private equity firm Hicks Muse Tate & Furst in early 2005, is understood currently to be marketing its second fund with a hard cap of up to €2bn and a target of €1.5bn, a considerable step up from its €820m predecessor fund, which is now almost fully deployed.