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Equistone invests in Unlimited Footwear Group

18 Dec 2014

"‹Equistone Partners Europe Limited, one of Europe"™s leading mid-market private equity investors, today announces that Equistone Partners Europe Fund IV ("œEquistone"), has acquired Unlimited Footwear Group ("œthe Group" or "œthe Company"), a Dutch specialist in the design, sourcing and distribution of mid-market footwear for men, women and children, together with the management, for an undisclosed sum. The deal will see previous shareholders realise their stakes in the business and management reinvest alongside Equistone.  

Unlimited Footwear Group is made up of Shoes Unlimited, Trend Design and Star Collections. The Group’s footwear is sold through retail chains across Europe and North America under private labels, under its proprietary brand ‘Bullboxer’ and under its licensed brands including Björn Borg and GAASTRA. Headquartered in Waalwijk in the Netherlands, Unlimited Footwear Group designs collections in numerous different styles and supplies several million pairs of shoes to a global client base each year. The business is able to respond quickly to fashion trends, adapting designs to appeal to a mass-market audience.

Equistone has invested alongside founders Igor Bechtold and Bart van Helvoirt, as well as members of the wider management team. Bart van Helvoirt will have overall responsibility for the Group as the Chief Executive Officer, and Igor Bechtold will continue to manage the Company’s product design and development.  

Equistone’s investment in Unlimited Footwear Group represents an attractive opportunity given the newly aligned shareholder and organisational structure, the potential for new partnerships with third-party brands and scope to increase further market penetration in North America as well as Central and Southern Europe.

Commenting Philippe Stüdi, Head of Equistone Partners Europe Switzerland, said: “This deal represents an exciting opportunity to back an impressive, entrepreneurial management team with long-standing expertise and a vast network in the international shoe industry. We very much look forward to working with Bart and Igor and their team to further develop and grow the business.”

Bart van Helvoirt, Chief Executive Officer Unlimited Footwear Group, commented: “We are delighted to welcome Equistone as our new strategic partner. It is a firm that is well-known for its expertise in the development of medium-sized companies and we are confident that with their support we are well placed to continue the Group’s growth. We have already formed a strong partnership with the investment team and look forward to working with them on the next step of our journey.”

Igor Bechtold, Head of Design and Development Unlimited Footwear Group, added: “The Group has historically been very successful in capturing the latest fashion trends and developing a range of products that are appealing to the mass market. We’re excited to be working with a partner that shares our ethos and market perspectives.”

Philippe Stüdi, Leander Heyken and Dr. Peter Hammermann led the deal for Equistone.

Advisers involved in this transaction included for Equistone – Vischer and Houthoff Buruma (legal), KPMG (financial and tax), Cubus Partners (debt) and Kurt Salmon (commercial). For the vendor – Rockcliffe Partners (M&A) and Baker & McKenzie (legal).

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