April 27, 2012 6:39 pm

Entrepreneur likely to bid for Aquascutum

The investment arm of global supply business Li & Fung is out of the race for Aquascutum, but textiles entrepreneur James Eden is expected to make a bid.

YGM Trading, which holds the rights to the Aquascutum name in Asia, is also widely expected to express an interest in the Aquascutum brand, following the collapse of the 161-year-old luxury raincoat maker last week.

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Fung Capital, the private investment arm of the Fung family, which separately controls the Li & Fung group, was mooted as a possible buyer for Aquascutum.

However, it has no interest in the business, according to people familiar with the situation. Fung Capital declined to comment.

James Eden, the 28-year-old former investment banker who produces the Private White VC menswear line, is expected to bid for both the Aquascutum brand and its Corby factory, which has already closed.

Bids for Aquascutum were due in on Friday to FRP Advisory, administrator of the classic clothing company, which was founded in 1851. It declined to comment.

However, the sale of the remainder of Aquascutum could prove tricky without the valuable Asian element of the business.

When Harold Tillman, the fashion entrepreneur, struck a deal to buy Aquascutum in September 2009, he sold the rights to the brand in Asia to YGM. He retained the brand’s intellectual property rights for the rest of the world, but the majority of the business was in Asia.

This meant he acquired the costly elements of the business, such as design, marketing, and the Corby factory, with a small turnover base, and without the lucrative Asian royalties

Kim Winser, the former chief executive of Aquascutum, tried to buy the business four years ago, from its then owner, Japan’s Renown.

However, when Renown decided that it would not sell the business as a whole, but split it up, Ms Winser and her management team walked away, amid concerns that it would be difficult to make the business work in parts, as Aquascutum was a global brand.

Ms Winser has so far declined to talk about the business. But she said on Friday: “I was running and offered to buy the whole global Aquascutum business and not just this small element which is now in difficulty. I understand the global Aquascutum is still today a very successful and profitable operation, with around 80 per cent of all its global business in Asia.”

Mr Eden indicated that he was not concerned by the constraints around accessing Asia.

He already had strong links in the region through the Private White VC brand. Meanwhile, there were opportunities to develop Aquascutum in the UK and US, he said.

“First of all... I need the factory, because I have a growing demand from my customers internationally, and Aquascutum is a phenomenal brand that needs to be developed in the UK and the US. Obviously, it would be nice to have the rights in the Far East, but the world is a big place,” he said.

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