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L Brands reportedly considering Victoria’s Secret sale

US-based retail business L Brands is reportedly in talks with private equity firm Sycamore Partners to sell all or part of its iconic lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret.

First reported on Wednesday by the Wall Street Journal, the sale talks have not been confirmed by L Brands, which also owns Bath & Body Works and casual clothing brand Pink. But the company’s shares jumped 12 per cent on the news, according to Reuters.

Victoria’s Secret’s local operations are managed by Malaysian retail company Valiram. Inside Retail did not immediately receive a response to its request for comment on the sale talks.

The reported sale talks come at a tumultuous time for the lingerie brand, which has struggled to compete with newer, online brands that often better reflect the values of younger consumers in the #metoo era.

L Brands recently reported a 3 per cent decline in comparable sales for the nine weeks ended January 4, 2020, and downgraded its Q4 earnings per share guidance from US$2.00 to US$1.85. Victoria’s Secret alone has seen comparable sales fall nearly every quarter since 2016.

The brand has also struggled to turn around its image after then-CMO Ed Razek told Vogue in 2018 that its annual fashion show wouldn’t have transgender models.

CEO Jan Singer resigned just one week after the interview made headlines around the world, and the show, which had seen viewership dwindle in recent years, was officially cancelled last November.

Stuart Burgdoerfer, CFO of the brand’s parent company L Brands, said at the time that it was “important to evolve the marketing of Victoria’s Secret”.

L Brands owner and CEO, Leslie Wexner, has also found himself in the spotlight for his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, who was arrested last year for the sex trafficking of underage girls. He died in prison shortly thereafter.

Wexner has not been accused of criminal wrongdoing and reportedly ended his relationship with Epstein more than a decade ago.

Analysts have said the sale of Victoria’s Secret offered the brand the best chance of survival.

“Fresh perspective would likely be a positive in ‘righting the ship’,” Jefferies analysts said in a note, Reuters reported.

Sycamore Partners, the private equity firm said to be involved in the talks, has several retail chains in its portfolio, including The Limited, the very first retail brand created by L Brands owner and CEO Leslie Wexner in 1963.

The Limited went public in 1982, was taken over by buyout firm Sun Capital in 2007 and closed all stores in 2017, before Sycamore picked it up.



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