The hunt for Jack Wolfskin closes in: Decision expected in April

Ever since Jack Wolfskin exited in 2002 from selling product in the United States, interest in the German brand of outdoor gear and apparel hasn’t ceased. Now two German companies stand in the last round of acquisition, sources say. SNEWS takes a peek at what’s going on.
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Ever since Jack Wolfskin exited in 2002 from selling product in the United States, interest in the German brand of outdoor gear and apparel hasn’t ceased.

After passing from the hands of Johnson Outdoors to Bain Capital to Quadriga/Barclays Private Equity, the brand, which has continued to grow and dominate Europe as it expanded into Asia, has been for sale again since last year.

With rumors and whispers about sales increasing in the last few months – until now all unconfirmed – German media and other SNEWS® sources indicate another change of hands is near. The expected price for Jack Wolfskin (www.jack-wolfskin.com): Euro 600 million (USD $836 million, estimated based on today’s currency rates only), although some are saying the price could reach Euro 800 million (USD $1.1 billion).

Two of the last standing in the hunt are, according to sources:

>> billionaire Guenter Herz, 70, son of Max Herz who is the founder of the 62-year-old coffee chain-turned-retailer Tchibo (www.tchibo.com), now known for weekly deals on a variety of inexpensive products from tea towels to backpacks, not to mention inexpensive coffee. Herz is one of the richest people in Germany with an estimated fortune of Euro 4 billion (estimated USD $5.6 billion)

>> the Otto Group (www.ottogroup.com), formerly known as Otto Versand because of its specialty in mail-order businesses. Otto, a 61-year-old family-run business, reported revenues of Euro 10.1 billion in 2010 (estimated USD $14.1 billion). In 1991 it acquired specialty retailer Sport Scheck after investing in the retailer for three years prior. Scheck, with 16 branches in Germany, reported 2009 revenues of Euro 303 million (estimated USD $422 million).

The two companies, both with headquarters in the northern German city of Hamburg, have remained silent about their offers and interest, SNEWS sources reveal, as have current owners. Final offers are to be submitted by mid-March.

U.S. firms VF Corp., parent of The North Face and Jansport, and investment firm The Blackstone Group also reportedly were interested. VF has declined comment, telling SNEWS it was company “policy not to comment on acquisition rumors.”

The catch is a continually growing and expanding 30-year-old outdoor products brand which was called by an executive of a Germany-based buying group at the ispo sporting goods show “a marketing machine.” Over the years, Idstein, Germany-based Jack Wolfskin, run by Manfred Hell and his right-hand Markus Boetsch, has taken calculated steps to place its well-known paw print logo on the sideboards of soccer stadiums and expanded its brand stores. The store count recently reached 150 but the company has plans to double that number this year, it has announced.

Others previously named possible suitors in the deal have been Adidas and Puma; however, Puma stated in mid-February when it released its financials that it was not a part of the bidding. And Adidas has also stated it is not in the hunt.

In 2010, Jack Wolfskin’s sales grew by 21 percent, hitting Euro 304 million (estimated USD $415 million). As comparison, company founder and CEO Hell told SNEWS in 2006 that 2005 sales were Euro 97.4 million, up by nearly a third from 2004’s Euro 73.1 million. At that time 80 percent of sales were in Germany, although since then the company has made distinct expansion steps into the United Kingdom, China and Italy.

Over the years of sales, SNEWS has been told that Jack Wolfskin top management has continued to hold a considerable portion of company shares.

--Therese Iknoian, with additional reporting by Ulrich Wittmann

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