Seafolly owner: Why I’m selling up to Louis Vuitton in “emotional” deal

Seafolly

A Seafolly store.

Australian swimwear brand Seafolly is hoping to make a bigger splash in international markets, after its founders sold a majority stake in the company to L Capital Asia, the private equity arm of fashion powerhouse and luxury goods retailer Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy.

Anthony Halas, who in 1998 took over the reins of the company his mother and father had founded, told SmartCompany this morning he has been approached “almost daily by potential suitors” over the past few years, but L Capital Asia stood out from the pack as a company that could “truly add value and help us meet our goals”.

“I started talking with [L Capital Asia managing director] Ravi Thakran in December last year and he really impressed me,” Halas says.

“He understood brands and fashion and the space we’re in.”

The deal is worth more than $100 million and Halas confirmed his family will retain a “significant” stake in the business of more than 20%.

The deal is L Capital’s fourth Australian investment, having previously purchased stakes in iconic Australian retailer RM Williams, sportswear label 2XU and gourmet food store Jones the Grocer.

The LVMH group is well known for its high-end fashion labels, including Fendi, Givenchy, Marc Jacobs and Tag Heuer, as well as alcohol brands Moet and Chandon and Belvedere vodka.

Halas has two goals for Seafolly, which he says L Capital Asia will help him achieve.

“The first is we want to become a true beach lifestyle brand, maximising our swimwear, apparel and accessories,” he says.

“We want to take it as far as we can and they can really help us do that.”

To achieve this goal, Halas and Thakran have already begun discussing potential new products for the Seafolly brand, with skincare and sun protection at the top of this list.

“We’ve recently started selling sunglasses, which is an example of how well we can expand into other categories.”

Secondly, Halas wants Seafolly to become an “international iconic breach brand” and he says L Capital Asia’s international connections, including landlords and other retailers, will “open doors for us”.

With stand-alone Seafolly stores already operating in the United States, Halas says developing the brand’s presence in Asia is a key area of focus.

“We have a small presence in Singapore but outside of that, we don’t do a lot in the Asian market,” he says.

“It’s a part of the world that L Capital really understands.”

Halas’ parents Peter and Yvonne founded Seafolly in Sydney in 1975. The swimwear brand now turns over more than $120 million each year, with sales in 42 countries.

In Australia, aside from its online presence, Seafolly has 10 stand-alone stores, as well as numerous stockists and a partnership with Myer.

Halas describes the decision to sell as “an emotional one” but necessary to continue growing the business.

“It’s been going for nearly 40 years and I am 47, so I have grown up with it, it’s part of the family,” Halas says.

“But we wouldn’t be doing justice to the brand if we didn’t sell. It’s the next step that needs to be taken.”

Looking further ahead, Halas says taking Seafolly public with L Capital’s help is “definitely” on the cards, saying it’s an option he is “very much” interested in.

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