Gary Wassner tapped to launch Velocity Group Fashion & Apparel brand – WWD
Gary Wassner, CEO of Hilldun Corp., was tapped by Brand Velocity Group, a consumer-focused private equity firm, to launch its fashion and apparel industry-focused vertical, BVG Fashion & Apparel .
He will continue his 45-year career with Hilldun, which provides factoring, financing, purchase order financing, administrative support and business advice to the fashion industry.
“We recognize that we have reached a critical point in time where our core offering has evolved,” said Steve Lebowitz, Founder and Managing Partner of BVG. “Our positioning reflects our continued growth in exciting new avenues, the first of which is today’s launch of BVG Fashion & Apparel.”
BVG Fashion & Apparel seeks to leverage the company’s core competencies in operational expertise, marketing execution and brand building, in addition to implementing its innovative approach to human capital. The company dedicates 10% of its total pool of interest earned in each investment to its employees through a program called Share the Gains.
According to Wassner: “Many tTraditional private equity firms fail to realize that the value of fashion and apparel brands is not only derived from financial metrics, but also from the creativity and passion of their teams. BVG’s unique focus on human capital in addition to brand development is what will set us apart from others in the industry, and I look forward to the work we will do together.
Drew Sheinman, Founding Partner of Brand Velocity Group, said, “What makes BVG great is the power of our network and our deep connectivity across all areas of popular culture. Gary brings unparalleled access to established and emerging players in the fashion industry, which fits perfectly into our model and will be invaluable as we seek to seize opportunities at the intersection of entertainment and fashion.
Earlier in his career, Sheinman served as Senior Vice President, Brand Ventures at Endeavour, Director of Marketing and Revenue for the Breeders Cup World Championship, President of Simon Brand Ventures, and Vice President, Business Development at Madison Square Garden and Coca-Cola Co., in addition to his roles with the New York Mets and the Baltimore Orioles/Washington Redskins.
BVG Fashion & Apparel will focus on acquisitions of fashion and accessories brands with $10 million or more in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, and more than $100 million in revenue. Sheinman said they run businesses that for some reason haven’t been able to scale up and will help them get there.
Asked what attracted them to Wassner, Sheinman replied that they had never been in the fashion business. “We see this as a great opportunity to combine our expertise as investors and our connections between talent and sports/entertainment talent, while bringing our strong focus on caring for people and our Share the Gains program into the fashion world. To do this requires someone of the level of expertise, experience and connections that Gary has. »
Sheinman and Wassner have been talking about the fashion industry for about a year. “We have very similar perspectives on how to build a brand, how to help, rather than impose, and how to identify a really good prospect for our support,” Wassner said.
“Our model with Brand Velocity is about acquiring businesses,” Sheinman said. “Ideally, we’d like the CEO to stay put and take a few chips off the table.”
Wassner said this is just another aspect of helping both his Hilldun customers and others in the apparel, accessories and fashion/sports industries. /entertainment. Since 2014, Wassner has had an investment fund, InterLuxe Holdings, which no longer makes new investments.s. One of his first investments was in Jason Wu. Their current investments are Mackage and ALC, which he says are “both doing extraordinarily well.”
“We’re comfortable being in both of these companies, and if the right opportunity arises to exit, we’ll consider it,” Wassner said.
Wassner said the key to what they intend to do at BVG is to support, not impose, brands. “We look at all types of brands in the consumer products space,” Wassner said. “We are particularly interested in brand equity, brands that have a significant opportunity to grow across multiple categories. We will look inside the brand and understand these opportunities, and leverage our talent pool. He said BVG would provide board representation and advisory expertise.
As for how long BVG would retain a brand, Wassner said: “We don’t have a deadline. We are not limited to a timeline, unlike many private equity firms. This is one of the advantages and one of the main differences. We certainly want to make money from investments, and we don’t have a very strict exit deadline, so we can build a brand organically where appropriate and not be forced out. Wassner added that they only look for profitable businesses and not turnaround situations.
Wassner said he would seek acquisitions globally. “It has to be realistic for us to manage from a distance. There are definitely opportunities overseas, like in Australia, that make sense,” he said.
Asked if the pandemic is forcing some young designers to consider selling their brands, Wassner said many of her young designers and contemporary clients have thrived during the pandemic, while some of the mass brands have struggled. Wassner said they would be open to acquiring ambrand of ass, but it depends on the creative talent and if they can do anything for this brand.
Is the end game to take the company public?
“Not necessarily. It’s definitely an option, but it’s not the end of the game,” Wassner said.
Sheinman said it was not a fund and he had the option of keeping it. There is no desperation in overthrowing a business, he said.
“That’s one of the main reasons why this alignment made sense to me. I don’t think you can put a timeline on brand development,” Wassner added.
Sheinman believes they will likely make the first acquisition within the next six to nine months. They don’t have a set target for number of acquisitions per year or dollar deployment.
In January, NFL quarterback-turned-broadcaster Eli Manning has joined BVG as a partner. Manning became the fourth partner of Brand Velocity Group, which was founded in 2019 and in 2020 acquired BBQ Guys, an outdoor appliance company in which Manning is an investor along with his father, Archie. Connecting through BBQ Guys sparked discussions with Manning to seek other business opportunities. Lebowitz, Sheinman and Austin Ramos are the other three partners. Wassner is not a partner since he has his own business, Sheinman said.
Sheinman said Manning is learning about private equity. “He definitely helps open doors for us, and he also helps with his great experience and culture in leading two teams to Super Bowl championships. Eli has been a great resource with his network and strengthened with our networks. Part of his attraction to us was because we care about people and embrace culture and core values,” Sheinman said.
The other two companies in BVG’s portfolio are Original Footwear, the largest contract supplier of tactical footwear to the US Department of Defense, and Magma Products, which is the largest manufacturer of barbecues designed for use on boats.
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