Liz Claiborne’s Fire Sale

For the last ten years, Liz Claiborne seemed to be buying everything in sight, especially things that were to most of us difficult to distinguish from Liz Claiborne itself. (Ellen Tracy? Dana Buchman?)

Now it appears that the company is prepared to part with many of its 16 subsidiaries practically for the asking, so that the company can bestow all its peach-fuzzy kisses on a few younger and more prominent brands like Juicy Couture and Kate Spade.

WWD reports:

At its much-anticipated July Investor Day, [C.E.O. William L.] McComb, who took his post in November, outlined his vision for the $4.99 billion firm, which meant focusing time, talent and funds on "power brands" Kate Spade, Juicy Couture, Lucky Brand and Mexx, while closing, selling or licensing the not-so-sweet 16 other brands. This new phase marks a sharp divergence from the last decade under Paul Charron's acquisition-happy, diverse portfolio strategy.

Analysts are less concerned the brands bring a good price than they are that Claiborne just gets rid of the subsidiaries …

Of course, those are the analysts talking, not the sellers. As for McComb himself:

"The biggest thing is whether we will be able to get competitive prices," McComb said. "There's a point where it's more valuable to keep a brand."

Well, maybe not the biggest thing.