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Polartec Owner Versa Capital Management Puts Company on Selling Block

The next chapter in Polartec’s storied history is about to be written.

Sources with knowledge of the situation confirmed to Sourcing Journal that the company’s owner, private equity firm Versa Capital Management, is looking for a buyer for the textile solutions firm.

Versa did not reply to a request for comment on a potential sale. The company, based in Philadelphia, has $1.25 billion of committed capital under management. Versa recently completed the sale of Bell and Howell LLC to Boston-based WestView Capital Partners. Polartec could change hands in a similar manner or be purchased by a company involved in the textile supply chain.

Based in Andover, Mass., Polartec changed its name from Malden Mills after being purchased out of bankruptcy by Versa in 2007. A spokesman for Polartec said Thursday that it had no comment on Versa’s potential sale of the company that traces its roots back to 1906.

Credited with inventing modern synthetic fleece in 1981, Polartec is known for its textile innovation, particularly in the activewear and outdoor apparel market. Its products range from lightweight wicking and cooling fabrics, to insulation and weather protection textiles, and are utilized by leading consumer brands, the U.S. military and the flame resistant, workwear and contract upholstery markets.

In 1995, the company made national news after a fire destroyed most of its major textile factory in Lawrence, Mass. In a much-publicized act, mill owner Aaron Feuerstein continued to pay his workers through the Christmas season, and the factory he and his family had run for three generations was rebuilt, resulting in a large debt load.

Malden Mills struggled to recover from both the fire and the high cost of rebuilding a modern manufacturing facility at a time of vast retrenchment in the domestic textile industry and a surge in imports. In 2007, the company filed for bankruptcy protection for the second time in four years, a move that cleared the way for its sale to Versa.

Most recently, the company introduced Polartec Power Air, a new fabric technology engineered to reduce fiber shedding, which has been linked to ocean pollution when polyester microfibers escape from apparel during washing and make their way into the wastewater stream. It also launched an “Eco-Engineering” initiative that will use recycled and biodegradable materials across its entire product line in conjunction with Unifi Inc. and Intrinsic Advanced Materials.