LVMH sells fashion label Donna Karan for $650 million

Louis Vuitton owner sells to G-III Apparel after failing to turn around ailing brand

LVMH, the largest luxury conglomerate in the world, said that it had agreed to sell Donna Karan International to G-III Apparel Group. Photograph: NYT

LVMH agreed to sell Donna Karan International to G-III Apparel Group Ltd for an enterprise value of $650 million.

The French luxury-goods maker failed to turn around a label that once defined workplace attire for successful US women.

The sale reflects LVMH's inability to generate profitable growth from the business, which has counted Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama among its fans. Co-founder Donna Karan transformed professional women's wardrobes in the 1980s and 1990s with her design philosophy of "seven easy pieces" that could be mixed and matched, but the spread of casual workplace dressing has proved a challenge.

"When G-III approached us about acquiring the brand, we concluded that the time was right," Toni Belloni, managing director of LVMH, said in a statement Monday. G-III will gain the Donna Karan and DKNY brands, the companies said.


Stock buyback

The transaction makes it likely that LVMH announces plans to buy back €1 billion ($1.1 billion) of stock, wrote Fred Speirs, an analyst at UBS. LVMH is scheduled to report results Tuesday.

LVMH shelved the Donna Karan line after its founder departed last year, with plans to focus on the DKNY brand, the New York Post reported on July 20th.

It also said that the company had decided to sell both brands after seven months of “disappointing performance” under new designers Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow.

"Selling DKNY is a way to get rid of a problem at a time when the market is tough," wrote Luca Solca, an analyst at Exane BNP Paribas.

“Getting rid of loss-making businesses is second best to turning them around, but better than keeping them in the group as a perpetual drag.”

Shares of the French company, whose full name is LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE, rose 1.3 per cent to €144.20 euros in Paris.

Donna Karan founded the fashion label in 1984 with her late husband, Stephan Weiss.

She stepped down as chief designer last year to focus on other projects such as Urban Zen. G-III makes dresses, suits and sportswear under brands such as Calvin Klein and Vince Camuto.

The sale is "a good deal for LVMH, considering the brand has been under considerable pressure, not only in the US but in Europe over the past 12 to 18 months," said John Guy, an analyst at MainFirst Bank.