LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE has recently sold bootmaker R.M. Williams to Australian mining billionaire Andrew Forrest, bringing the ownership of the iconic fashion label back to its home country after six years under LVMH’s control. While the financial details of the transaction were not disclosed, reports suggest that the sale was worth around A$190 million.

Andrew Forrest, the founder and major shareholder of Fortescue Metals Group Ltd, expressed his pride and humility in acquiring R.M. Williams. He emphasized the brand’s long and proud history of Australian craftsmanship. This acquisition is seen as a significant moment for the company’s legacy and its future prospects.

When L Catterton, the investment arm of LVMH, took over R.M. Williams in 2014, the company was valued at approximately A$104 million. However, it has been reported that LVMH’s recent sale of the brand significantly marked down its valuation from around A$500 million. This decline in value can be attributed to the challenges faced by fashion retailers globally due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has led to a sharp decline in sales. Additionally, the border closures and stay-at-home orders implemented by governments to combat the virus have further exacerbated the situation.

R.M. Williams, with its 900 employees in Australia, had to temporarily close its Adelaide factory due to the pandemic. However, it has managed to reopen most of its 68 retail outlets, primarily located on the country’s east coast. The brand’s resilience in navigating through these challenging times highlights its commitment to its employees and customers.

This sale of R.M. Williams follows the troubled path of another Australian brand backed by LVMH, Seafolly Pty Ltd. The swimwear maker appointed administrators in June, citing a sales downturn caused by the coronavirus. These recent struggles faced by LVMH-backed Australian brands emphasize the difficult environment that the fashion industry is currently operating in.

Andrew Forrest’s acquisition of R.M. Williams signifies a new chapter for the brand, returning it to Australian ownership. With its rich history and commitment to high-quality craftsmanship, the iconic bootmaker is well-positioned to continue its legacy in the Australian fashion industry.

Useful links:
1. R.M. Williams Official Website
2. LVMH Official Website