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K-Swiss agrees to $170M buyout by Korean firm

By   /   Thursday, January 17th, 2013  /   Comments Off

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Shares of Westlake Village-based footwear firm K-Swiss soared 48 percent on the morning of Jan. 17 after the company agreed to a $170 million buyout.

E.Land World Ltd. of South Korea offered to pay $4.75 per share for K-Swiss, which has struggled with huge losses in recent years as sales of its iconic white tennis shoe faltered.

E.Land World owns several apparel and sports brands and distributes products for athletic shoe maker New Balance, a K-Swiss competitor. The South Korean firm’s offer for K-Swiss is all-cash and represents a 49 percent premium over the closing price of K-Swiss’s Class A common stock on Jan. 16.

The deal is expected to close in the second quarter.

K-Swiss’ losses between 2009 and 2011 totaled more than $160 million, prompting the company to try a number of new marketing initiatives ranging from one centered around Kenny Powers, a fictional character on the HBO television series “Eastbound & Down,” to a campaign with “Biggest Loser” personal trainer Jillian Michaels.

Nothing K-Swiss tried truly stuck. The company lost $20.2 million through the first three months last year. It has not yet filed results for the full year 2012.

The company’s shares traded in the $3 range prior to the buyout offer, down more than 90 percent compared to its $35-plus stock price in late 2006.

“E.Land has a 30-year record of successfully building a global fashion and retail conglomerate and also shares our culture of valuing associates,” K-Swiss Chairman Steve Nichols said in a statement. “I believe that such a platform will provide K-Swiss with the resources and scale to return to its former performance levels.”

Swiss brothers Art and Ernie Brunner founded K-Swiss in Los Angeles 1966. In 1986, Nichols led a group of investors to buy the company. K-Swiss went public in June 1990 and moved its headquarters to Westlake in 1998.

Nichols controls the firm through Class B shares that give him 69 percent of the total voting power as of the end of 2011, according to company filings.

The firm employs about 600 people worldwide and about 200 people in the U.S., according to regulatory filings. It owns its 50,000-square-foot headquarters on Oak Crest Drive.
Goldman Sachs & Co. advised the firm in the buyout negotiations. Morgan Stanley advised E.Land World.

As of mid-morning trading. K-Swiss shares were up 48 percent to $4.72 on the Nasdaq.

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