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US brand house closes in on Ben Sherman

New York-based Marquee Brands, run by former Kenneth Cole boss Michael DeVirgilio, has emerged as the front runner to buy British heritage brand Ben Sherman, Drapers understands.

Marquee Brands was established in the past year as a brand acquisition, licensing and development company operating with private equity firm Neuberger Berman. It has recently acquired Italian luxury shoe brand Bruno Magli. One industry source told Drapers that if it acquires Ben Sherman the firm was likely to seek a European licensee to operate the brand outside the US.

Marquee Brands founder DeVirgilio worked at Kenneth Cole for 17 years until September 2014, most recently as president of licensing and international. Prior to Kenneth Cole he was director of merchandising at Joseph & Feiss, a division of Hugo Boss, USA.

US owner Oxford Industries, which has owned the brand for 10 years, put Ben Sherman up for sale in March because it had weaker performance than sister brands Tommy Bahama and Lilly Pulitzer in recent quarters.

For the year to January 31, sales at Ben Sherman were up 26.6% to £49m. However, it made a full-year loss of £7.3m, down from £8.8m the year before.

As previously reported by Drapers, Ben Sherman was expected to be bought by another US company for about £50m. Oxford Industries paid £80m for it in 2004.

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