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Are Joe’s Jeans and Jessica Simpson Looking for a New Parent?

Joe’s Jeans and Jessica Simpson could find themselves under new ownership, according to parent company Sequential Brands Inc., which announced Monday it’s exploring strategic alternatives.

The company said options could include divesting one or more existing brands, acquiring one or more new brands, a stock buyback program and other initiatives. The latter is sometimes the catch-all phrase that often includes a possible sale of the company. Sequential, which hired Stifel as financial advisor, hasn’t set a timetable for when it will complete the strategic review, which itself doesn’t guarantee any action one way or the other.

In addition to Joe’s Jeans and Jessica Simpson, the company also owns 10 other brands, including Ellen Tracy, And 1, Gaiam, William Rast, Heely’s, Caribbean Joe, Avia, DVS, The Franklin Mint and Spri. In June, the company sold its Martha Stewart brand to Marquee Brands, another brand management firm, for $166 million.

At the time, Sequential said it would use the proceeds to pay down debt and considering plans to eliminate its current headquarters at Manhattan’s Starrett-Lehigh building plus other cost-savings initiatives, with the full impact of any reduction expected starting in 2020.

William Sweedler, Sequential’s chairman, said, “After having received unsolicited interest for several of our brands from multiple parties, Sequential’s board of directors is engaging in this formal process to ensure that we are evaluating all alternatives to best further the interest of our shareholders.”

Separately, Karen Murray has stepped down as CEO of the company but will continue to serve as senior advisor and assist the company on strategic opportunities. Murray joined the company in 2017, and was previously president of VF Sportswear where she oversaw brands such as Nautica. Chad Wagenheim, executive vice president of strategic development and operations, was promoted to president and will assist during the transition and search for a new CEO.

Sweedler said of Wagenheim, “With his demonstrated operating expertise, strategic leadership and focus on results, we’re confident in his ability to help lead Sequential through this next phase.”

Wagenheim added, “We have a strong portfolio of brands, blue chip base of licensees, and solid lender relationships. With our recently restructured lending agreement and no upcoming debt maturities, we are fully focused on executive against our plan to drive growth and right-size our expense structure given the current size of the company.”