Tommy Hilfiger sells for $1.6 billion

Clothing company Tommy Hilfiger Corp. said Friday it agreed to be purchased by Apax Partners, a private investment company, for $1.6 billion (Ђ1.4 billion), or $16.80 a share, in cash. Hilfiger said it expects the deal to close by Spring 2006 and is subject to shareholder approval. The offer is a 5 percent premium to Hilfiger's Thursday closing stock price of $16 on the New York Stock Exchange. Hilfiger shares rose 35 cents, or about 2 percent, to $16.35 in pre-market trading after the news.

Apax Partners, which operates in the U.S., Europe, Israel and Asia, has invested in private and public companies, among them Phillips-Van Heusen, Tommy Bahama, Spyder Active Sports, Dollar Tree Stores and the Children's Place. "This is an exciting new phase in our evolution as a global lifestyle company ... in addition to ensuring the strength of the Tommy Hilfiger brand at the higher end of the spectrum, we can continue to move ahead with the already successful global expansion," Tommy Hilfiger, the company's founder and principal designer, said in a statement Friday.

Hilfiger plans to remain actively involved in the company. He entered an employment agreement that will have him continue as principal designer and chairman of the company's strategy and design board after the deal closes. Fred Gehring, chief executive officer of Tommy Hilfiger Europe, and Ludo Onnink, chief financial officer of Tommy Hilfiger Europe, also agreed to enter new employment agreements when the buyout is completed.

J. P. Morgan Securities Inc. acted as exclusive financial adviser to Tommy Hilfiger Corp. Citigroup and Credit Suisse First Boston provided financing for support of the acquisition. Tommy Hilfiger, through its subsidiaries, designs and markets men's and women's clothing as well as clothing for children. The company's brands include Tommy Hilfiger and Karl Lagerfeld. Through licensing agreements, Hilfiger offers a wide range of related apparel, accessories, footwear, fragrance, and home furnishings, reports the AP. N.U.

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