Tom Ford – designer, film director, art collector and fashion world provocateur – can now add one more accolade to his list: billionaire. On Tuesday, Estée Lauder announced it had agreed to buy his company in a deal that totaled $2.8 billion.
The deal is the largest in the luxury industry this year, and is a testament to the enduring power of perfume.
It comes as high-end brands are looking for new avenues for growth as business in China – once the engine for luxury beauty businesses – has become more difficult amid pandemic restrictions.
Ford, 61, will stay on with the brand through the end of 2023, though his role beyond that is not yet clear.
Saying he “could not be happier,” Ford added of Estée Lauder in a statement, “They have been an extraordinary partner from the first day of my creation of the company and I am thrilled to see them become the luxury stewards in this next chapter of the Tom Ford brand.”
The acquisition was driven by the strength of Tom Ford’s beauty business, which includes fragrance, cosmetics and skin care, and for which Estée Lauder has had a long-standing licensing agreement.
The Tom Ford high-end scents, which include Black Orchid and Tuscan Leather, routinely make the bestseller lists.
The deal also brings apparel to Estée Lauder, which had been strictly focused on beauty, with a portfolio of brands that include La Mer, Bobbi Brown and Clinique.
“We are incredibly proud of the success Tom Ford Beauty has achieved in luxury fragrance and makeup and its dedication to creating desirable, high-quality products for discerning consumers around the world,” said Fabrizio Freda, the CEO of Estée Lauder. He added the deal would further his company’s growth in “luxury beauty for the long-term.”
Estée Lauder, which will pay $2.3 billion, will finance the deal through a combination of cash, debt and $300 million in deferred payments. Marcolin, the Italian group that owns the license for Tom Ford eyewear, will pay $250 million to Estée Lauder when the deal closes.
Estée Lauder reported this month that sales in Asia fell because of the region’s strict pandemic policies. Lower growth in China also forced Estée Lauder to reduce its financial forecast for next year. Shares of the company are down about 40% this year.
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