Hilfiger Corp. May Be on Auction Block

Thursday, August 18th 2005, 10:57 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Fashion company Tommy Hilfiger Corp., aiming to expand its business, is making plans to put itself on the auction block, according to a published report.

Shares of the company soared on the news.

According to industry newspaper Women's Wear Daily, the Hong Kong-based company is being shopped around to potential buyers, and the asking price is at least $1.82 billion, though it could get as much as $2.16 billion. The report credited a source specializing in mergers and acquisitions. The company hired JPMorgan Chase & Co. as its investment adviser, according to the report.

Tommy Hilfiger officials could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

The news comes a week after Tommy Hilfiger announced it settled a federal probe into a tax-related issue by agreeing to pay $18.1 million in taxes and interest. The resolution has helped the company's stock recover, climbing to a 52-week high of $16.11 on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday, after falling to below $9 a share last fall, when the probe was announced. Hilfiger shares rose another $2.29, or 14.21 percent, to $18.40 in late morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Over the past two years, the fashion company has been on a campaign to restore the brand's luster and expand its reach. It has restructured its wholesale operations and last year purchased luxury brand Karl Lagerfeld. It also wants to reclaim its preppy heritage and for fall is returning to classic fashions like polo shirts.

Burt Flickinger III, managing director for New York-based Strategic Resource Group, said he believes a financial buyer as opposed to a fashion company will buy Tommy Hilfiger.

``Tommy is a brand that has been a power prestige brand in the past, and there is still opportunity to rebuild the business,'' he said. ``But the opportunity as an independent brand is stronger than being part of a broad portfolio of a public company.''

Meanwhile, J.Crew Group Inc. said late Wednesday it filed paperwork with the Securities and Exchange Commission to launch an initial public offering that's expected to raise some $200 million.

J.Crew, which has some 200 locations throughout the nation, intends to apply for a listing on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol ``JCG.'' The company is controlled by private equity firm Texas Pacific Group, which will buy $73.5 million worth of common shares.