Think Tank: Douglas Hand on the Challenge Of M&A for Namesake Brands
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” — Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)
In one of Shakespeare’s most famous lines, Juliet maintains that a name is an artificial construct, a meaningless convention. I suppose Juliet would have no problem selling her name to the highest bidder.
For the vast majority of fashion designers, this prospect is met with trepidation and anxiety. Moreover, in my experience, investors often have their own particular concerns when it comes to acquiring eponymous fashion and lifestyle brands. In the context of M&A transactions, this can present a challenge for lawyers and bankers.
Examples of designers who have sold or lost control of namesake brands are far from uncommon: Joseph Abboud, Jimmy Choo, Emanuel Ungaro, Hervé Léger, Helmut Lang, Doo-Ri Chung, Jil Sander, to mention just a few. For some pretty obvious reasons, a namesake brand is difficult for a founder to part with. When the very business and trademark being sold are tied inexorably to the individual selling them, there is a fear over loss of control, not only of the company itself, but of the designer’s personal image management. The brand’s story, the experience of it and its overall narrative, which have been based on a designer’s own life, are now in the hands of an acquirer.