Buyout funds including Bain Capital and Apax are preparing to make last-round bids for Toms, the cordwainer that is part of the growing popularity of fashion brands that incorporate philanthropy in their business model.
The two private equity groups are expected to make final offers for Toms during the next few weeks, valuing the Los Angeles-based company at between $600m and $700m, according to people familiar with the situation.
The ethical footwear company, which donates a pair of shoes for every one it sells, has been working with Sage, the investment bank, on a sale since May.
The process drew a range of prospective buyers, mostly private equity but some strategic, according to people familiar with the situation. However, many dropped out after the first round of bids. It is unclear if others besides Apax and Bain are still in the process.
The FT first reported news of the sale process in June.
Since its launch in 2006, the company has donated more than 10m pairs of shoes to children in 59 developing countries.
An early pioneer in the booming for-profit ethical fashion marketplace, Toms had estimated revenue of $250m in 2013, with 30 per cent of sales coming from its website. All of its consumer shoes – priced between $55 and $85 – are made in China, as are the vast majority of its giveaway shoes.
Plans for a factory with 100 employees were recently unveiled in Haiti after the brand came under attack from academics and activists for failing to provide sustainable employment in the communities it seeks to help.
“If you really are serious about poverty alleviation, our critics said, then you need to create jobs,” said founder and chief executive Blake Myckoskie earlier this year.
“At first I took that personally, but then I realised that they were right …using our model to create jobs is the next level.”
He added that by the end of 2015 Toms plans to have one-third of all its shoes produced in the countries in which it operates its donation programmes.
In November Mr Myckoskie launched Marketplace, an online department store showcasing 200 products from 30 fashion brands with a charitable component to the business model.
Toms has also extended its one-for-one model across other products. Its portfolio includes sales of 150,000 pairs of sunglasses supporting eyecare projects in the third world, and Toms Roasting Co, where for each bag of coffee sold the company provides a week’s worth of clean water to someone in need.
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