The crocodile is on the move.
Jones Day is representing members of the Lacoste family on the sale of their remaining holdings in the apparel maker that bears their name to Swiss holding company Maus Frères in a deal that values the brand known for its little green reptile logo at roughly $1.3 billion.
Hervé Castelnau, an M&A partner in Jones Day’s Paris office, is leading a team from the firm advising a group of Lacoste family shareholders. Other Jones Day attorneys working on the matter include IP partner Emmanuel Baud, antitrust partner Eric Barbier de la Serre, global disputes partner Laurent Martinet, labor and employment partner Emmanuelle Rivez-Dumont, and M&A counsel Thibaut Kazémi.
Castelnau and Kazémi joined Jones Day last year from Norton Rose, according to our previous reports. Before joining Norton Rose in November 2003, Castelnau worked at French firm Sokolow Dunaud Mercadier & Carreras, which at the time was grappling with the aftermath of a messy separation with a U.S. merger partner, as previously noted by sibling publication the New York Law Journal.
René Lacoste, a former French businessman and tennis player nicknamed “The Crocodile” by fans enamored of his tenacious play on the court, cofounded Lacoste in 1933. After René Lacoste died in 1996, control of the company—which sells nearly 14 million polo shirts a year—passed to his heirs, many of whom have spent the past several years battling for control of a brand beloved by preppies the world over.
Reuters reported in October that the ongoing dispute pitted René Lacoste’s son Michel Lacoste, the company’s former chairman and CEO, against his own daughter, Sophie Lacoste Dournel, who was named nonexecutive chairman of the apparel maker in September.
Geneva-based Maus Frères, which owns several department stores and accessory chains, already controls a 35 percent stake in Lacoste through its Devanlay subsidiary. Family-owned Maus Frères announced last week that it had reached a deal to acquire the rest of Lacoste it doesn’t currently own from the Lacoste family shareholders.
The Swiss holding company said it agreed in October to pay roughly $512.4 million for the 30.3 percent of Lacoste owned by Michel Lacoste and his niece Beryl. A separate group of family members, which collectively holds 28 percent of the company and is led by Sophie Lacoste Dournel, subsequently agreed to sell their stake to Maus Frères for an undisclosed sum.
“After studying several options, Sophie Lacoste Dournel and the family shareholders she represents have accepted that any action that pitted two groups of shareholders against each other would harm the interests of the firm and its employees,” her group said in a statement earlier this month. “As a result they have agreed to sell their shares to the Maus Frères group.”
Jones Day’s corporate lawyers worked closely with their civil litigation counterparts in Paris, including counsel Anne-Laure Vincent, in advising the group led by Sophie Lacoste Dournel, which was also represented by French firm Franklin, according to local legal publication Law in France.
Law in France notes that another leading French firm, Darrois Villey Maillot Brochier, is representing the Michel Lacoste–led shareholder group, while rival Gide Loyrette Nouel has taken the lead on the transaction for Maus Frères, which will now control 93.3 percent of Lacoste. (Click here for a profile of Gide from The American Lawyer‘s 2011 Focus Europe supplement.)
Johan Harrysson serves as group general counsel for Maus Frères. The company turned to Swedish firm Vinge for its $810 million acquisition of Swedish clothing retailer Gant in 2008, and relied on Jenner & Block in the early 1990s for representation in U.S. bankruptcy court in connection with Chapter 11 proceedings involving its former department store unit, Bergner’s.