Growth

Mambo surfs into new home with US retail group Saban Brands

Eloise Keating /

Mambo’s artwork is its calling card as a brand

Iconic Australian surf and streetwear brand Mambo will become one of the flagship fashion labels in the lifestyle portfolio of Saban Brands, after the New York-based retail group acquired a majority stake in the company founded by Dare Jennings in 1984.

Saban Brands announced the purchase on Tuesday, revealing that Mambo will join clothing label Paul Frank and footwear brand Macbeth in the recently formed Saban Brands Lifestyle Group (SBLG).

Saban Brands is an affiliate of Saban Capital Group and was founded in 2010 to acquire a portfolio of global entertainment and lifestyle brands. The Saban Brands entertainment division includes brands such as Power Rangers, Julius Jr., Popples, Luna Petunia and Emojiville.

While the sale price or ownership breakdown was not disclosed, Saban Brands managing director of strategic business development Dan Castle said in a statement Mambo will “play a significant role in [Saban Brands’] international growth strategy both in Australia and around the world”.

Castle said Saban Brands plans to expand Mambo’s Sydney office and the Saban Brands staff are “excited to work directly with the extremely talented and passionate Mambo team”.

“We will maximise and integrate with them as we aggressively grow the brand around the world using Saban’s international footprint,” he said.

News Limited reports Mambo managing director Angus Kingsmill will continue in his role, as will the entire Mambo staff.

In the same statement Kingsmill described the deal as a “massive coup for Mambo”.

“Saban Brands is a major player in the international entertainment, art, music and brand marketing space,” he said.

“The partnering of Mambo with Saban Brands will provide a platform for talented Australian and international artists to showcase amazing wearable art to a global audience on a scale much greater than ever before.”

It’s the latest chapter in the history of the Mambo brand, which was built on its quirky artwork and ties to well-known artists such as Reg Mombassa.

Founders Dare Jennings and Andrew Rich sold Mambo in 2000 to Gazal Corporation, which offloaded the company eight years later to private equity outfit Equity and Capital Finance Australia, led by current managing director Angus Kingsmill and Tony Woodward.

But Kingsmill told News Limited today Mambo’s owners did not go searching for a new owner.

“The furthest thing from our mind was selling Mambo,” he said.

“We were sought out by Saban and pretty much told them we weren’t interested initially. Then, over several meetings, they shared their vision and offered us a very reasonable price.”

“We were growing the brand nicely over recent years, but it’s difficult with a small team based out of Sydney to give that investment in other markets, and that’s what Saban can bring to Mambo.”

Kingsmill said Saban Brands “very much considers [Mambo] an Australian brand”.

“There will be more money coming into the Australian economy because of this,” he said.

“While I’m here – and I intend to be for a long time – there’s not a chance they’re going to change that too much.”

Retail expert Brian Walker, chief executive of the Retail Doctor Group, told SmartCompany on face value, the partnership between Mambo and Saban Brands “makes a lot of sense”.

“Mambo is an iconic Australian brand that has stood the test of time,” Walker says.

While Walker says it is interesting to note that it “took an offshore investor to see the opportunity in the Mambo brand”, he says the partnership will likely give Mambo the resources it needs to “re-energise” the brand for a broader audience.

“To grow and grow internationally, you need sustainable growth through the entire cycle,” Walker says.

“They will be working with a proven international partner with similar lifestyle brands.”

SmartCompany contacted Mambo but did not receive a response prior to publication.

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Eloise Keating

Eloise Keating is the editor of SmartCompany. Previously, Eloise was news editor at Books+Publishing, the trade press for the Australian book industry.

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