EXCLUSIVE: I’ve learned that the upstart private equity firm Star Avenue Capital is buying a majority stake in J Brand, a denim apparel brand whose signature lines of skintight jeans are a favorite of celebrities with impossibly small waists and thin thighs. But what’s interesting here is that Star Avenue Capital is a partnership between CAA and Irving Place Capital, making the talent agency an equity owner in the blue jeans company. I hear SAC, led by Mark Genender, is looking for other consumer brands with growth potential.
When I first heard about this jeans deal which hasn’t been announced yet, my sources said that CAA would put money in the venture but have no operational role. *UPDATE: One of Nikki Finke’s sources looked at this deal back in November and says the stake being discussed at that time was in the $80M range — a “big bet on niche premium denim”. On the other hand, she hears Irving Place Capital bought Seven Jeans years ago and sold it for “a boatload of a profit”.*
What the agency brings to the table, supposedly, are the services of its lifestyle, marketing, trend forecasting, market research, and licensing divisions to grow the brand. It is the first time I can remember that any talent agency has held a stake in a consumer apparel brand. (Though management company The Firm once held a majority stake in the Pony shoe brand.)
The presumption is that CAA clients will suddenly be wearing these jeans. And the J Brand website shows they already were: pictured in J Brand wear are Cameron Diaz, Reese Witherspoon, Victoria Beckham, Sandra Bullock, and Ashley Tisdale.
The jeans biz becomes just the latest example of a talent agency diversifying beyond the traditional commissioning business to create revenue. Both CAA and WME are doing it in the high finance arena, with CAA a co-owner of Evolution Media Capital (with former Merrill Lynch bankers Bob Stanley, Pat Lampe, and Dave Pagoda). While WME is forming an offshoot company with ex-Goldman Sachs banker Joe Ravitch and former UBS Warburg banker Jeff Sine.