NEW YORK, Nov 18, 2001/ — It looks like Coats won’t be shedding Jaeger and Viyella quite as soon as expected. The British clothing group announced that its annual profit is likely to fall short of last year’s, and it’s too early put the brands on the block.
Chief Executive Martin Flower confirmed that in the long term the company plans to focus on its thread production business, which counts Gap and Nike among its customers. In the short term, however, it still intends to hang on to its fashion retail division.
“We are retaining Jaeger and Viyella for the time being,” said Flower. “We think those businesses would benefit from a period of continuity in the group.”
When Wallis vet Pat Burnett was named head of Coats’ fashion retail division in June 2000, she tapped designer Bella Freud to reinvigorate Jaeger, and also recruited model Trish Goff and photographer Nathaniel Goldberg. Her formula appears to have worked, as profits in 2000 rose to more than $7 million, from only $1.4 million the year before.
Last year, Coats posted an overall pre-tax profit of $72 million.
Insiders estimate that when Jaeger and Viyella are sold they could go for up to $300 million. Potential buyers could include William Baird, which is looking to strengthen its fashion retail division, or private equity firms. Some sources even point to Burnett herself as a possible bidder. She orchestrated an abortive attempt to buy out Wallis after Sears sold the chain to retail entrepreneur Philip Green.