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Deal Watch: CC and DLA Piper step up on £300m Dr Martens buyout

It has become a cliché among deal professionals to say that – even in these risk-averse times – there is still the confidence and financing to make acquisitions with a solid story. Securing one such deal are DLA Piper and Clifford Chance (CC), who have taken lead roles advising on the £300m sale of Dr Martens – the iconic footwear brand – by the shareholders of parent group and licensee of the brand R Griggs Group. The company was sold to an investment vehicle backed by London-based private equity house Permira.

DLA fielded a Birmingham-based team for R Griggs, the majority of which is owned by the Griggs family who have run the brand for more than 50 years. DLA’s team was led by partner Noel Haywood and included senior associate Ceri Williams-Jones and associates Simon Wright and Rosie Hendon.

CC advised key private equity client Permira on the acquisition, which is expected to complete in January 2014 adding to Permira’s portfolio of fashion labels like Hugo Boss and New Look.

A heavyweight line-up of corporate partner Jonny Myers and global corporate head Matthew Layton led the City giant’s team. Layton advised Permira on its €3bn (£2.5bn) sale of frozen foods business Iglo Group last year, while Myers previously led on its €220m (£194m) acquisition of a majority stake in Irish healthcare equipment manufacturer Creganna.

DLA’s Haywood commented: ‘This was a great transaction to be involved with. Dr Martens is an iconic and authentic brand that has millions of customers worldwide. Griggs is also a cherished and longstanding client of DLA Piper so we were delighted to have advised the shareholders on this important transaction.’

This is the second time Dr Martens has been put up for sale in the last two years, after the family-owned R Griggs held an auction that failed to attract enough bids. Chief executive David Suddens said the family was selling for personal reasons to invest their money elsewhere.

Dr Martens boots were invented in 1947 by Klaus Martens, a German doctor who had a foot injury and created the air cushioned sole. Once favoured among workmen, the company, which is headquartered in Northants on the original site of the factory, now sells in 63 countries, principally in the US, Asia, Europe and the UK. Last year Dr Martens posted sales of £160.4m and a pre-tax operating profit of £22.9m, which it expects to grow to more than £30m in 2013.

Permira, one of Europe’s leading private equity houses, focuses its investment in five core sectors: consumer, financial services, healthcare, industrials and TMT. The buyout house – one of CC’s top corporate clients – handles funds with total committed capital of around €22bn.

Click here for an assessment of CC’s private equity practice