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German sandal maker Birkenstock taken over by LVMH-backed group

Sarah Butler
·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

The French family behind Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior is to take control of the German sandal maker Birkenstock in a €4bn deal.

Financière Agache, the family investment firm of Bernard Arnault, the French billionaire who controls the designer brand conglomerate LVMH, and L Catterton, a private equity firm part-owned by LVMH, has bought a majority stake in the family-owned footwear firm. The value of the deal was not confirmed but is understood to be in the region of €4bn (£3.5bn).

Arnault fought off a competing bid from the private equity firm CVC Capital Partners, the owner of dozens of companies, from the motorway services firm Moto to the luxury watchmaker Breitling.

Birkenstock said the investment would help it expand in China and India, and fund the development of its website and the expansion of its main German factory in Görlitz.

Founded in 1774 in Langen-Bergheim by the cobbler Johann Adam Birkenstock, the company set up its first factory in 1925. It is still owned by the descendants of its founder – brothers Alex and Christian Birkenstock – and continues to make all its footwear in Germany.

Arnault’s experience in taking brands to Asia, and L Catterton’s ownership of quality fashion brands including Ganni, Seafolly and Pepe Jeans are thought to have swung in their favour.

Christian and Alex Birkenstock said: “For the next 250 years we need partners sharing the same strategic and long-term vision as the Birkenstock family. In L Catterton and Financière Agache, we have found those partners. They bring both a deep understanding of the details of a manufacturing business that is all about quality and a respect for brands with a long heritage like ours. We look forward to taking the next steps with our partners and carrying our family business into an even brighter future.”

Arnault said his investment would help Birkenstock “fully realise its significant growth potential”. He added: “Birkenstock was founded nearly 250 years ago and has grown to become one of the few iconic brands in the footwear industry. We truly appreciate brands with this long heritage.”

Interest in comfortable heritage brands has soared during the coronavirus pandemic, helping the bootmaker Dr Martens to launch on the London stock market with a valuation of £3.7bn last month. The comfy sandal makers Crocs and Tevas, and the bootmaker Ugg have also enjoyed a boom as the world has switched to working from home and taken to outdoor walks during worldwide restrictions prompted by the Covid-19 crisis.

Birkenstock’s sales surged 11% to €721.5m in 2019, when almost 24m pairs of sandals were sold worldwide. Even more of the blocky footwear is thought to have been sold in 2020 as the brand’s sandals and clogs became a lockdown hit in many countries, including the UK.