Tommy Hilfiger to Be Sold for $1.6B

Clothing seller and designer Tommy Hilfiger Corp. (TOM) on Friday said it had accepted a $1.6 billion cash takeover bid from private equity firm Apax Partners.

The deal values Tommy Hilfiger at about $16.80 per share, a premium of 5 percent based on Thursday's closing stock price. The shares hardly budged on Friday morning, indicating investors believe a counter-bid is unlikely and are somewhat disappointed in the size of Apax's bid.

Analysts and investors had thought early in the auction process that the company could fetch more than $20 a share.

Hong Kong-based Tommy Hilfiger put itself on the auction block earlier this year after struggling for months with weakness in its U.S. wholesale business.

Clothing vendor Phillips-Van Heusen Corp. (PVH) on Friday said it is in preliminary talks with Apax on how they could collaborate on the Tommy Hilfiger purchase.

Apax owns all of Philips-Van Heusen's Series B stock, which is convertible into 23 percent of the company's shares. Philips-Van Heusen has been exploring a Tommy Hilfiger licensing agreement with Apax, according to a source involved with the deal.

Tommy Hilfiger's namesake and founder has agreed with Apax to enter into a new employment agreement in which he will continue as principal designer as well as chairman of the Strategy and Design Board. Fred Gehring, chief executive of Tommy Hilfiger Europe, will take over as CEO, replacing David Dyer, who will leave.

The sale is expected to close in the spring and is subject to shareholder approval,

Tommy Hilfiger shares were up 2 cents at $16.02 in morning New York Stock Exchange trade.

The stock has climbed 49 percent this year, compared with a 6.5 percent gain for the Dow Jones Clothing and Accessories Index.

Tommy Hilfiger shares began their rise in June after the company agreed with U.S. prosecutors to settle an investigation into whether payments between its subsidiaries artificially lowered tax payments. The stock spiked higher again in August, after sources said the company was preparing itself for a sale.