Iconic bush brand sells off 49 per cent stake to global luxury brand but pledges to keep manufacturing here.
Iconic Australian clothing and footwear brand R.M. Williams will remain in Australian hands despite the purchase of a 49.9 per cent share by an affiliate of global luxury goods brand Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH).
And R.M. Williams chairman Ken Cowley, whose family owns the remaining 50.1 per cent controlling stake, says the new part-owner has agreed that the company will continue to manufacture its products in Australia.
“R.M.Williams will always manufacture quality product in Australia. Our new partners share our commitment to protect and develop this fundamental element of our business," he says.
The Cowley family - headed by the former News Ltd CEO - took over full ownership of the brand when its founder, Reginald (R.M.) Williams, died in 2003. Cowley bought out fellow shareholder Kerry Stokes and privatised the company.
The LVMH acquisition was fronted by private equity fund L Capital Asia, with the transaction expected to be completed next month along with the naming of new board members.
The full or partial sale of the company is believed to have also attracted the attention of Oroton, while Myer and Solomon Lew's Premier Investments were also thought to have been approached.
R.M. Williams already exports to 15 countries, has stores in London and New York and is carried by 900 retailers around the world, but Cowley says he hopes LVMH will help take the brand to the next level.
"Partnering with L Capital, which is sponsored by one of the globe's most prestigious and revered brand companies, LVMH, will allow the R.M.Williams name to reach its full potential," Cowley says.
"R.M. was one of my closest friends and I promised him in 2003 before he passed that I would take his legacy to the world."
Cowley describes R.M.Williams as "part of the heritage and fabric of the Australian way of life".
"It is a brand that we can all identify with. We are committed to the R.M.Williams legacy and are ensuring the future growth of this company by aligning with L Capital, which is sponsored by one of the globe's most authoritative luxury groups, LVMH," he says.
R.M. Williams joins LVMH bulging portfolio of brands that includes fashion labels such as Christian Dior, Givenchy, Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs. Other brands include watchmaker Tag Heuer, jewellery maker Bulgari, and wines and spirits giants Moet & Chandon and Hennessy.
LVMH declined to comment, redirecting Fairfax to R.M. Williams.