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Lion Capital Buys Paige Denim

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The private equity firm sealed the deal for the premium denim brand on Sept. 14.

Paige Denim has found a new home at Lion Capital.

Lion confirmed on Tuesday that it acquired the premium denim maker on Sept. 14, but a spokeswoman did not disclose any other details of the transaction, which has not previously been revealed. Lion bought out TSG Consumer, which picked up a controlling stake in Paige in 2012.

Founder and creative director Paige Adams-Geller is staying on board and will work with the new investors.

Multiple sources said the transaction valued Paige at 7.5-times earnings before interest, taxes and amortization of at least $20 million, for an overall valuation on the business of $150 million or slightly higher.

That price tag reflects both the brand’s resilience in a tough market — particularly in bottoms where ath-leisure looks have dominated in recent years — but also how far expectations have fallen in the once high-flying sector.

Just under two years ago, reports circulated that the company had hired bankers who were looking for a sale that would value Paige in the neighborhood of $400 million. One source said the company at that time was looking for closer to 12-times EBITDA, but that valuations on premium denim companies fell and Paige’s profits didn’t hit rosy projections. (It’s not uncommon for bankers to go to market with a big price tag as an opening gambit since any negotiation will bring the price down.)

While Paige effectively took a markdown, competitors traded at a steep discount or failed outright. True Religion fell into bankruptcy in July and last year Delta Galil Industries bought the once superhot Seven For All Mankind as well as Splendid and Ella Moss from VF Corp. for just $120 million.

While the Paige torch has passed from one private equity firm to another, Adams-Geller remains a constant and is ready to get to work with new partners.

“We’ve had an amazing run with TSG and we’ve had great success together and they truly supported our vision to help expand the brand,” Adams-Geller said.

“Like any amazing relationship, it’s exciting to have this opportunity to have new partners that really are experts in more of the retail arena,” she said. “They’re experts in e-com, retail and other categories….I don’t think we’re disappointed in this in any way, shape or form. It’s definitely a positive, forward momentum and a positive financial situation.”

Adams-Geller pinned much of the company’s resilience on the breadth of its offering, which extends beyond jeans to woven tops, outerwear, dresses and more. “One of the reasons why Paige has been able to be strong within this kind of crazy retail climate is that we have a really amazing team and people that are very dedicated to making our vision happen and we’ve had such success with our lifestyle [offering]” she said. “It’s kind of like the survival of the fittest.”

A spokesman for TSG declined to comment. But the private equity firm’s web site details its work with the brand, noting, “We have worked closely with the Paige team to help guide the overarching strategy for the business, including extending the brand into men’s and non-denim apparel, opening up new points of premium wholesale distribution, building out its direct-to-consumer business and enhancing the brand’s digital presence, including social channels.”

TSG also noted that Paige had expanded its direct channel, both through its e-commerce site and its boutiques, boosting sales in the area by 55 percent in 2016.

Paige has eight of its own brick and mortar stores.

Lion and its managing director Lyndon Lea have a long history in fashion, with both hits and misses. The company has previously held stakes in American Apparel and Jimmy Choo. In addition to Paige, its current portfolio includes brand management firm Authentic Brands Group, footwear company Buscemi and the rocker-friendly John Varvatos and All Saints.