Phoenix, Sirius acquire stake in upscale UK retailer

The London-based private equity firms are believed to have paid up to £100m for a stake in the British women’s clothes and shoe store, L K Bennett. The store founder, Linda Bennett, will remain a “substantial shareholder”.

Phoenix Equity Partners and Sirius Equity are hoping to replicate the success of luxury shoemaker Jimmy Choo after acquiring a stake in the British high street retailer L K Bennett for an undisclosed sum.

Phoenix, which previously owned Jimmy Choo shoes, and Sirius, which was co-founded this year by Robert Bensoussan, who worked with Phoenix on the Choo deal, said they planned to help the company expand in the UK and develop a “retail presence” overseas.  L K Bennett currently has 90 stores and concessions in Britain.

The deal is Phoenix’s 10th investment through its Phoenix Equity Partners 2006 Fund, which closed in 2006 on £375 million. The acquisition was the second investment for Sirius. According to various UK media reports, the stake was valued at up to £100 million ($200 million: €126 million).

As part of the deal, Bensoussan will join L K Bennett as chairman.  L K Bennett founder, Linda Bennett, will remain a non-executive director and a substantial shareholder.

Bennett said in the statement Phoenix and Bensoussan’s track record in building the Jimmy Choo brand and the UK handbag and accessories line, Radley, had been “critical” in the deal. Bennett had reportedly been trying to reduce her 100 percent stake in the retailer since 2004 but failed to achieve the price she wanted.

At the beginning of 2001, Phoenix and Bensoussan bought a 51 percent stake in shoemaker Jimmy Choo for £9 million, in partnership with the firm’s founder, Tamara Mellon. Phoenix sold the firm – which grew from four to 18 outlets – in 2004 to Lion Capital for £101 million. Last year, Phoenix – working again with Bensoussan – made £64 million, a 3.8x multiple on their original investment, in Radley after building it into one of the largest handbag and accessories businesses in Britain.