Crew Clothing CEO steps down after failed management buyout results in sale to US buyer

Lucy White
Crew prides itself on its laid-back seaside image (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

British lifestyle clothing brand Crew has been sold by its founder and private equity firm Livingbridge to Exquisite Apparel.

But Crew will be proceeding under a new image, as Louise Barnes – the chief executive who was brought in by Livingbridge to develop the brand – has stepped down following the sale. Barnes tried to lead a management buyout, City A.M. understands, but was outbid by Exquisite.

In a statement, Livingbridge credited Barnes “and her management team” with “successfully sharpening the brand positioning, updating the product range, and overhauling the retail and e-commerce channels”.

The firm declined to comment on Barnes' departure, but a spokesperson said: "Crew is a high quality asset and there were several attractive offers made for the business."

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“We have really enjoyed working with Crew and look forward to seeing the next stage in its growth story. We would like to take this opportunity to thank Louise Barnes and her team for their dedication to Crew and the work she has led in reinvigorating and strengthening the brand,” Livingbridge's Bevan Duncan said in a statement.

Livingbridge invested in Crew in 2006, and its annual revenues are now nearly £60m. The brand generated earnings before deductions of £2.7m last year, and like-for-like sales grew seven per cent in October.

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Founded in 1993 by Alastair Parker-Swift in the back of a windsurfing school in Salcombe, Devon, Crew now has more than 80 stores. Parker-Swift will continue to work with the business under its new ownership.

Little is known about the mysterious Exquisite Apparel, which has a minimal online presence. According to trade publication Retail Week, the firm is fronted by Michael Shina and produces branded clothing such as Tommy Hilfiger under licence for Walmart.

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