MidOcean Seeks Add-Ons For Totes-Isotoner

Target: Totes-Isotoner Corp.

Sponsor: MidOcean Partners

Seller: Bruckmann, Rosser, Sherrill

Price: Undisclosed

MidOcean Partners is making a bet on consumer products that offer protection from the elements.

The firm agreed to buy a majority stake in private equity darling Totes-Isotoner Corp., the maker of cold weather gear, footwear, raingear and sunglasses, from Bruckmann, Rosser, Sherrill & Co. LLC for an undisclosed sum. MidOcean intends to make add-ons, a strategy Totes-Isotoner is familiar with, having bought ESNY, a maker of sandals, flip-flops and slippers this fall.

TheTotes-Isotoner senior management team and Bruckmann, Rosser, Sherrill will continue to maintain a significant position in the company, according to MidOcean.

Totes-Isotoner has been on an odyssey of sorts, journeying from private equity firm to private equity firm for more than a decade. Bain Capital created it in 1997 when it bought Aris-Isotoner and merged it with Totes, a portfolio company acquired in 1994. Swander Pace Capital bought the company from Bain in 2001 for somewhere between $100 million and $125 million, according to estimates, and then turned around and sold it to Bruckmann, Rosser, Sherrill for an undisclosed sum later that same year.

The company’s gloves, hats, scarves, umbrellas, slippers, and other products are marketed under the Totes, Isotoner, Raines and ESNY names; they are sold by more than 5,000 major department stores, mass merchants, drug stores, and specialty retailers in North America, the U.K. and France. The company also operates a network of more than 100 outlet mall-based stores that it owns.

Doug Gernert, who has led Totes-Isotoner for more than 10 years, will continue as its CEO and also assume the role of chairman of the board. “Our goal is to provide retailers with a single point of contact for their accessories needs,” Gernert said in a prepared statement. The company intends to continue to expand into new retail channels, as well as internationally, building on its position in the U.K. and France.

Mid-market buyout shop MidOcean, based in New York and London, got its start in early 2003 after buying the merchant banking portfolio of Deutsche Bank. Credit Suisse advised Totes-Isotoner and has agreed to provide financing for the transaction. Kirkland & Ellis LLP provided legal counsel to MidOcean and Dechert LLP provided legal counsel to Bruckmann, Rosser, Sherrill.—E.B.