MARCH 2008. Lando Simonetti, founder and CEO of La Martina was pacing around his office in the Buenos Aires suburbs. Not so long ago, the offer that had just landed in his inbox would have been relegated to the trash bin within seconds. He had always been fervently committed to the independence of his firm – independence from investors, boards of directors, banks and politicians.
From a local polo equipment producer, La Martina had become one of the most recognized global brand names in polo and fashion alike. He would have preferred to stay true to the brand’s DNA, rooted in the estancia lifestyle and the polo game, delivering functional polo equipment. But that no longer seemed possible since the fashion industry had discovered the brand and transformed it into a fashion icon.
This time the offer was different. It came from Tribeca Partners, a reputed South American private equity firm in Bogotá that had developed a serious fashion specialty. It had recently concluded its first deal in Argentina, acquiring one of La Martina’s local competitors, Etiqueta Negra, with a view to taking it global. The company clearly knew about fashion and Argentina was on its radar screen. The offer was rock solid, valuing the company at close to three times sales and ten times EBIT. Was it time to let go?
Discuss exit planning, harvesting, private equity, growth management, and the fashion industry.
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