Shoemaker Rockport explores options including sale

The Rockport Group is exploring its options, including a possible sale, after one of the U.S. footwear maker’s major debtholders took ownership of the company, people familiar with the matter said Wednesday.




Rockport’s plans to review its options, which the three sources said could also include an equity or debt infusion, come as many brick-and-mortar retailers struggle to cope with the popularity of online shopping and changing consumer tastes.

Investment bank Houlihan Lokey Inc is advising Rockport on its review, according to the sources. Alternative asset manager Crescent Capital Group LP, a major creditor of Rockport, took ownership of the footwear seller in recent weeks from private equity firm Berkshire Partners LLC and injected new capital into the company with other co-investors, the sources said.

Crescent made the equity investment in part to protect the money it has loaned Rockport, the people said, and ensure that it is repaid. The asset manager also sees additional value in the men and women’s footwear line, started in 1971 in Massachusetts, and distributed around the world, the sources added, asking not to be identified because the deliberations are confidential.

Rockport did not immediately return a request for comment. Crescent, Berkshire Partners and Houlihan Lokey declined to comment.

Rockport’s shoes are found in department stores such as Macy’s Inc, specialty shoe retailers and in Rockport stores and its website.

Rockport, which also has the footwear brands Cobb Hill, Aravon and Dunham, has at least $60 million in debt, in the form of a revolving line of credit, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Berkshire Partners led the acquisition of Rockport from Adidas Group in 2015.

Several private equity firms invested in footwear companies in recent years, with Apax Partners LP acquiring Cole Haan, Sycamore Partners LLC buying Nine West, part of the Jones Group Inc, and Golden Gate Capital and Blum Capital snapping up Payless ShoeSource.

Some of these investments fared poorly. Payless filed and emerged from bankruptcy this year, while Nine West is exploring options for its balance sheet with an investment bank.
 

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