Pentland Group plc

Founded 1932
London, UK

Building a family of brands for the world to love, generation after generation

Pentland Group plc is a family-owned global company operating in the areas of sports, fashion and outdoor clothing and equipment through three divisions. Its core business, Pentland Brands, manages a portfolio of owned brands including Speedo, Berghaus, Canterbury, Mitre and KangaROOS; Lacoste and Ted Baker as licensed brands for global footwear, and Kickers as a licensed brand for the UK. It is guided by a single purpose: “Building a family of brands for the world to love, generation after generation.” The retail division comprises JD Sports Fashion, a chain of over 1,300 retail shops, in which Pentland Group is a majority shareholder. The Investment Division supports group diversification by investing in new ventures or partnering with start-ups with a mandate to learn from entrepreneurs and innovate.

“Receiving this prestigious global award is the culmination of many decades of evolving as a family business and being supported by great teams and partners.” commented Andy Rubin, third generation family shareholder and chairman of Pentland Brands – the brand management division of the group. “To be recognized externally is a great validation of what we do. It helps us – as a private family business – to see that we benchmark with the very best. We are constantly learning and evolving and are passionate about our people, our brands, our customers and being good corporate citizens.”

Pentland Group is headquartered in London, but 80% of its sales – which totaled £2.9 billion in 2016 – come from 190 countries worldwide across online channels, with the remainder from the UK. Pentland Group employs over 20,500 people, of which over 2,000 work for its core business, Pentland Brands.

Regeneration via entrepreneurial venturing with family capital

Pentland Group’s roots can be traced back to 1932, when Berko and Minnie Rubin – immigrants from Eastern Europe – set up the Liverpool Shoe Company, a small fashion footwear business, with just little over £100 capital base raised from family and friends. The two generations that followed expanded the business in a number of directions. Significant among these was an expansion into the manufacture of women’s footwear in the 1940s to 1960s, followed by pioneering the outsourcing of footwear manufacture to Asia in the early 1970s. In 1981, it invested US$77,500 for a majority stake in a struggling American sports brand called Reebok. This investment was sold 10 years later for a 10,000-fold return on investment. With the proceeds, the company started to develop a portfolio of owned brands. Despite floating the company on the London Stock Exchange in 1964 to raise capital for expansion, the Rubins stayed committed to the business; in 1999 the family decided the listing had stopped being worth its while and bought back all outstanding shares, going private again. In 2005 the company completed its first major acquisition in the retail sector by investing in a retail channel, JD Sports Fashion, where it remains the majority shareholder today.

Fair trade and combatting modern day slavery

Pentland Group set the industry standards for fair trade and sustainability when Stephen Rubin served as World Chairman of the Textile Institute and President of the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry. “We made a phenomenal difference to eliminating child labor in India and Pakistan.” said Stephen Rubin. Pentland’s leadership and actions in the textile and sporting goods arena resonated purposefully in the industry.
Corporate responsibility became an inherent part of Pentland’s business culture and model. Pentland Brands set its corporate strategy responsibility goals along three criteria: (i) building brands with social purpose; (ii) future-proofing the supply chain; and (iii) respecting human rights and tackling inequality. It measures progress on these achievements, reporting it in a comprehensive annual Corporate Responsibility Review.

In 2002 Stephen Rubin was appointed as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to business and to human rights. In 2010 he received an honorary Doctor of Art (DArt) degree from Nottingham Trent University in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the footwear and sportswear industries and for raising ethical standards in manufacturing.

In 2015, the Rubin family sponsored a new Chair in Sustainability at the Lancaster University Management School and launched the Pentland Centre for Sustainability in Business. The vision of the Pentland Centre is to create a world-class hub for transdisciplinary research on sustainability, exploring macro trends particularly in environmental sustainability, ethical trade, human rights and to engage directly with leading organizations, including the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). In 2016, in collaboration with Lancaster University, Pentland developed a toolkit to prevent modern slavery and assess its risk at every one of its first-tier suppliers. In 2017 Pentland Brands issued its first Modern Slavery Report.