EXCLUSIVE: Authentic Brands Group Initially Agrees to Buy Champion From HanesBrands Inc.

After a bidding process that went on for weeks, Authentic Brands Group came out the winner after agreeing to buy the athletic apparel label Champion from HanesBrands Inc. for a little more than $1 billion.

“Champion agreed to be acquired by ABG last Friday or Monday,” said a source knowledgeable about the negotiations. “They should close around the end of May or early June.”

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No formal agreement has been signed yet, but rumors are that something could be put in writing next week. Also interested in the label were Delta Galil, Sycamore Partners, G-III Apparel and WHP Global, sources said.

Sources warned that Authentic Brands’ purchase could result in thousands of employees around the world losing their jobs because the intellectual-property management company will source much of the manufacturing, design, logistics and operation of the label’s various components to other companies.

HanesBrands put its second-largest label up for sale last year initially seeking at least $1.4 billion after it saw Champion sales nosedive in the past few years. It hired Goldman Sachs & Co. and Evercore to explore strategic options for the more than 100-year-old label that at one time supplied all the uniforms in the 1990s for the National Basketball Association teams.

Champion’s sales stumbled in the past two years, part of that due to fewer collaborations with names like Supreme and Rick Owens. Its global sales fell by 23 percent in the fourth quarter of 2023, with weakness attributed to both the strategic changes and the challenging sports apparel market.

A sale of Champion gives HanesBrands’ finances a much-needed boost. The company ended last year with net debt of $3.1 billion, or 5.2 times its adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.

In 2023, HanesBrands’ total revenues were $5.6 billion, down 9.58 percent from the previous year. Revenue in the fourth quarter of 2023 was $1.3 billion, down nearly 12 percent year-over-year. HanesBrands’ best revenue years were in 2021 and 2018 when sales hit $6.8 billion.

HanesBrands, based in Winston-Salem, N.C., was trying to reset the course for Champion by shifting its mix and showing more discipline on product and channel segmentation. Just last December, the company hired Richard McCloud from Canada Goose to become the vice president, chief marketing officer of global Champion.

Champion, started in 1919 by the Feinbloom brothers as the Knickerbocker Knitting Company, became a full line of men’s and women’s athletic apparel that included activewear, sweats, Ts, sports bras, team uniforms, footwear and accessories sold in department stores, sporting goods outposts and specialty retailers. HanesBrands’ other labels are Hanes and Bonds.

HanesBrands had a profitable deal with many universities across the country where it supplied campuses with Champion sweatshirts and other items with the school name on them. Sources said that model would probably continue.

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