Wolverine Sells Sperry Boat Shoes To Authentic Brands

Wolverine Worldwide, the parent company of Merrell, Saucony and Stride Rite, says it is selling Sperry, whose Top-Sider boat shoes have been kicking around since the 1930s. Wolverine expects the transaction to generate some $130 million, which it intends to use to pay down debt.

Authentic Brands is the buyer. In announcing the acquisition, Authentic also revealed a new licensing agreement with the Aldo Group, adding Sperry’s 23 retail stores to Aldo’s network of 430 shoe retail units.

For Wolverine, the deal represents another major step in simplifying the corporate structure.

Wolverine has been radically pruning the brand portfolio. A year ago, it sold Keds, a storied sneaker company, to Designer Brands, parent of DSW, as well as licensing rights to Hush Puppies. Wolverine valued that transaction at $90 million.



“The sale of the Sperry brand is the next step in our turnaround and strategic transformation,” said Chris Hufnagel, Wolverine’s president and chief executive officer, in the announcement. The company is based in Rockford, Michigan.

For Authentic Brands, Sperry is the latest well-known name to land in the fast-expanding portfolio. Authentic, which has hinted at a public offering soon, aims to connect its 50-plus brands with partners, distributors and retailers to build value.

Authentic says that through the Sperry deal, Aldo Group becomes Sperry’s North American partner for wholesale, ecommerce and store operations. Aldo will also oversee footwear design and production.

“Sperry's influence extends far beyond fashion, embodying a lifestyle that celebrates exploration," said Jamie Salter, Authentic's chairman and CEO, in the announcement.

Authentic scooped up many of its brands after they’d fallen on hard times, including once-bright names like Reebok, Brooks Brothers, Barneys New York, Frye, Nautica and Lucky Brand. (It also owns some celebrity brands, such as Shaquille O’Neal, David Beckham and Greg Norman.) Cumulatively, Authentic brands generate $29 billion in global annual retail sales.

But Authentic is also striking deals with newcomers. Last fall, it made a big splash with a long-term agreement pairing Authentic’s Forever 21 with Shein, the fast-growing Chinese ecommerce company.

That deal calls for Shein to design, manufacture and distribute a line of Forever 21 apparel and accessories, co-branded as Forever 21 x SHEIN.

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