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Tried-and-True Playbook to Bring Eddie Bauer Under ABG, SPARC Auspices

After celebrating its 100th anniversary last year, Eddie Bauer is now coming under new ownership in the form of a decidedly 21st-century business model.

On Friday, a pair of deal-hungry retail rescuers inked an acquisition agreement with PSEB, the subsidiary that private equity juggernaut Golden Gate Capital formed in 2018 to merge the heritage outdoor brand it purchased in 2009 with Pacific Sunwear. Authentic Brands Group, a brand management outfit, and SPARC will follow the playbook used in past transactions when it comes to their Eddie Bauer deal, whose terms were not disclosed.

ABG, which co-owns SPARC with mall giant Simon Property Group, will brings its brand management prowess to the deal in assuming control of Eddie’s Bauer’s intellectual property, while SPAC, a retail operator with 2,600 global retail doors and shop-in-shops, takes over the outdoor company’s operating assets. This arrangement mimics the pattern the pair established when they plucked Brooks Brothers and Lucky Brand out of bankruptcy last year. Nautica, Aéropostale and Forever 21 also fall under SPARC’s umbrella, whose brands collectively generate about $8.6 billion in global retail sales each year.

Eddie Bauer will retain its Seattle-area headquarters after the deal closes by June 1. Though the company will be owned by SPARC, Eddie Bauer president Damien Huang will continue in his current capacity and the brand’s executives will retain their leadership over sourcing, product design and development, wholesale, planning and allocation and e-commerce in tandem with the joint venture, which will aid in running its 300 U.S. and Canadian stores.

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In announcing the acquisition, ABG CEO Jamie Salter pointed to Eddie Bauer’s “unparalleled authority in the outdoor space,” a market, he said, that has “grown exponentially over the last year.” Indeed, data shows consumers flocked to activities like hiking, camping and trail running that helped them escape the confines of quarantine over the past 12-plus months. With consumers’ fondness for fresh-air adventures showing no sign of abating, “we are ready to hit the ground running and guide this brand into new frontiers,” Salter said.

Neale Attenborough, PSEB chairman and an operating partner at Golden Gate, praised Eddie Bauer’s “solid results,” fueled by “award-winning technical products, strong omnichannel capabilities and a loyal and growing customer base.”

What’s more, Marc Miller, the top brass at SPARC, cited Eddie Bauer’s technical innovation as a “highly-differentiated” value-add in the joint venture’s fashion and lifestyle portfolio—expertise that AGB is eager to extend into new outdoor categories and distribution. Upcoming launches in China and South Korea will test the waters of international expansion, which could eventually include forays into Asia Pacific, Europe and Latin America. Authentic Brands will also leverage its marketing and category development expertise in scanning for licensing opportunities extending Eddie Bauer into adjacent outdoor categories. Eddie Bauer has already shaken up its reach, arriving in Kohl’s stores this fall.