Slightly under half of Australian clothing brand R.M. Williams has been sold to a Singaporean private equity firm backed by France’s LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, though the brand will continue to be made in Australia.
L Capital (backed by LVMH) paid what’s variously reported as being between $50 million and $100 million for 49.9 per cent of R.M. Williams, owned by former News Ltd executive Ken Cowley and his family.
Cowley said, in comments reported by News and others, that "partnering with L Capital, which is sponsored by one of the globe's most prestigious and revered brand companies, LVMH, will allow the R.M. Williams name to reach its full potential.”
"RM was one of my closest friends and I promised him in 2003, before he passed, that I would take his legacy to the world."
Cowley acquired his first stake in the company in 1994, when it was first listed then upped it in 2003, buying the 48 per cent that Cowley didn’t already own for $13 million, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Mike Williams, the Toowoomba Regional Mayor and son of founder RM Williams, also described the deal as beneficial to the label his father started.
"Long term I see it as being a very good thing for the company," he told The Chronicle.
"The R.M. Williams brand has always been about the Australian culture… I hope they do not lose sight of that."
Cowley has said that the company, which exports to 15 countries and has flagship stores in London and New York, will continue to make its products in Australia.
“R.M.Williams will always manufacture quality product in Australia. Our new partners share our commitment to protect and develop this fundamental element of our business," Fairfax Media reports him as saying.
Some have lamented a foreign company buying into another Australian brands, for example The Weekly Times, which editorialised that “it can no longer claim to be true blue Aussie. Australia has simply failed itself by not keeping these brands in local hands,” citing Vegemite, beer labels and other formerly Australian-made products.