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SBD Global/September 18, 2012/Finance

International Bidders Eye Rip Curl, While Founders Hold Out For $500M

Surfwear company Rip Curl "has received unsolicited approaches from several int'l companies looking to invest in the privately held firm," according to Chris Zappone of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. Rip Curl said in a statement that it had appointed Bank of America Merrill Lynch "to advise on exploring these opportunities and assess the merits of introducing an investor to the group." Earlier, reports suggested that Rip Curl, based in Victoria, Australia "could fetch up to A$480M ($502.4M) in a full sale" (SMH, 9/17). In Sydney, Teresa Ooi reported that Rip Curl's joint founders Doug Warbrick and Brian Singer "believe it is time to hang up their surfboards" and sell their business to U.S. private equity players for close to $500M. A source said that Warbrick and Singer, who together own 72% of the company, and Francois Payot, a director of the company who holds about 18%, "were willing sellers." One company backer said, "The Rip Curl business is doing well. There are no issues and it has a strong global presence of about 230 stores across the US, Europe, Brazil, Indonesia, Asia and Australia" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 9/18). In New York, Gillian Tan noted that half of the company's earnings are derived from Australia, with the remainder coming from int'l markets. The brand is "deeply ingrained in Aussie surfing culture." Rip Curl has "grown into one of the sport's most recognizable brands," since its inception in '69 "from humble origins in a surfboard-making workshop" near Victoria by "surfing enthusiast friends." Rip Curl helped organize Australia's first professional surfing competition, the Rip Curl Pro, in '73, and the event "still attracts the world's best surfers" as one of the 10 legs of the Association of Surfing Professional World Championship Tour (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/17).
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