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Kao Acquires Oribe, Expands Professional Hair Portfolio

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Oribe is said to have about $30 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.

It seems that recently, a day has not gone by without a big deal in beauty.

The latest comes in the form of Kao USA Inc. adding luxury to its professional portfolio with the acquisition of Oribe Hair Care from Luxury Brand Partners.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but industry sources estimated Kao will pay between $400 million and $430 million for the brand. Sources estimated Oribe has between $85 million and $100 million in sales, with $30 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.

Oribe was founded by famed hairstylist Oribe Canales with Daniel Kaner and Tevya Finger of Luxury Brand Partners in 2008. The trio built a luxury hair brand focused on innovative products, launching things like Dry Texture Spray instead of simply just dry shampoo. Today, the Oribe family includes a full lineup of hair products, but also body care, makeup and nail polish priced between $14 for travel-sized shampoo to $226 for a hairbrush.

The brand is primarily distributed in the salon channel, but also sells through high-end retailers, likeNeiman Marcus and Space NK. It’s also available on Amazon. Kaner, who has been a copresident of Oribe with Finger, will remain with the brand as president.

“When we started, there were a million hair products out there,” Canales said. “The point was to come up with innovation and since we weren’t a corporation, we took risks with innovation and we had a lot of imagination.”

For Kao, Oribe adds a luxury element to its salon division, which also includes Goldwell, a professional color line, and KMS, a line focused on styling.

“For us, acquisitions are not a game of scale,” said Cory Couts, global president of Kao’s salon division. “It’s not about collecting brands, it’s not about being the biggest, it’s about making sure our brands can sit side by side and that they complement each other and that we can make each other better as time goes by.”

Kao works with a specific subset of salons, according to Couts, “salons that take their business very seriously and their art very seriously, everything we do is around that,” he said. “[Oribe] fills a space in our portfolio that we had an opportunity to fill, and that’s at that very top end of the prestige sector of the professional beauty business,” Couts added, noting that he’s been familiar with Oribe (the person) for decades. 

“I first met Oribe in the early Nineties.…I remember because he was a celebrity and I definitely was not,” Couts said. “He came to teach people in San Francisco, he came to teach a styling class. Ever since then I’ve been intrigued by him as a person.” 

“We’ll continue with all the great innovative and interesting and new-to-market products, and it’d be great to continue with development but have more resources,” Canales, who owned a minority stake in the business, said of the deal. “It’s the perfect timing to allow Oribe to continue growing at the pace it’s always grown.” 

Kao’s plan for Oribe includes expanding its geographic reach, but the company has a different approach to growth than other buyers, according to Couts.

Right now, Oribe is available in about 40 international markets, according to Kaner. “Our focus is to continue to develop our business with our existing distribution channel, to continue to grow out comp sales, to meet new customers,” he said. 

“[We want to] grow the brand without diminishing the exclusivity of the brand,” Couts said. “We don’t want to dilute the brand equity, we don’t want to sell it outside of the types of salons it’s selling in now…That means in terms of growth, we have to look to international markets.”

Being under Kao is expected to help Oribe’s global footprint, according to Finger. “You have a company like Kao that really understands distribution — we’re kind of out of our league there,” Finger said. “We can take the company to a certain point, but you start to get to a range where it’s way better in the hands of someone who understands big business.”

This is the second recent divestment for Luxury Brand Partners, following its sale of Becca to the Estée Lauder Cos. in 2016. LBP plans to reinvest the money from the Oribe sale into making new, artist-driven brands, Finger said. Canales and LBP had been tied up in court for several years, but those legal disputes have recently been settled, sources said. Canales indicated he plans to be part of the Oribe team going forward.

Before the deal, Oribe and Kao’s Goldwell brand formed a strategic alliance that focused on education, professional support and marketing, starting in 2015.

“This transaction marks a logical progression in the longstanding partnership between Oribe and Goldwell,” said Andrew Charbin, director at The Sage Group, which served as exclusive financial advisor to Oribe. “Oribe is one of the first premium hair brands to transcend channel boundaries right from Day One when it was founded…[the brand] drives very high sales volume through its directly managed and tightly curated selection of about 2,000 high-end salons in the U.S.” 

The Oribe deal is just one of several in hair care for 2018. In January, Unilever acquired Living Proof, and in May, Ares Management acquired DevaCurl. Other recent beauty M&A transactions include Colgate’s acquisitions of PCA Skin and EltaMD and TSG Consumer’s investment in Huda Beauty.