New Balance Teams with Berkshire to Buy Rockport from Adidas

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Private equity firm Berkshire Partners and Boston-based footwear maker New Balance Athletic Shoe Inc. are buying The Rockport Co. from the Adidas Group (ETR: ADS) for $280 million.

Based in Canton, Massachusetts, Rockport sells men’s and women’s shoes and boots. It will be folded into Drydock Footwear LLC, a New Balance affiliate, and begin doing business as a new stand-alone company, The Rockport Group. Drydock is known for the Cobb Hill, Aravon and Dunham brands. Drydock founder and president Bob Infantino will serve as chief executive of Rockport Group once the acquisition wraps up.

Rockport was founded in New England in 1971 to bring advanced sports technology to casual shoes with the RocSport walking shoe and, later, the DresSport men’s dress shoe. Rockport was acquired by Canton shoemaker Reebok International Ltd. in 1986. Reebok itself was acquired by Adidas in 2005 for $3.8 billion.

Berkshire, also based in Boston, is known to buy just stakes or co-invest in companies. In 2014, the firm announced plans to partner with newly-formed financial sponsor Front Row Partners LLC on deals in the retail and consumer goods space. The Rockport deal leverages the strategy.

There has been a rate spate of footwear deals, including: Marquee Brands' acquisition of luxury shoe maker Bruno Magli; the purchase by handbag seller Coach Inc. (NYSE: COH) of Stuart Weitzman for $574 million; the acquisitions of Brian Atwood and Dolce Vita Holdings by Steven Madden Ltd. (Nasdaq: SHOO); Bain Capital LLC’s 50 percent stake in casual footwear maker Toms Shoes Inc.; and the acquisition by Palladin Consumer Retail Partners LLC of Aerosoles.



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