Global Brand Marketing Gains Stake in Pony Shoes

Times Staff Writer

Footwear marketer Global Brand Marketing Inc. of Santa Barbara has acquired a majority stake in athletic shoe brand Pony from entertainment management company the Firm.

Terms were not disclosed, but people with knowledge of the transaction said it was being valued from $60 million to $75 million.

Two sources close to the deal indicated that GBMI acquired 60% of the Pony brand and paid the Firm about $25 million in cash and other expenses.

As part of the deal, GBMI and the Firm established a new company, Pony International. Pony International will be controlled by GBMI to market the Pony brand globally.

GBMI also markets footwear brands such as Diesel, XOXO and Nautica in 130 countries and owns the Italian footwear company Dry-Shod.

The Firm, which merged with Michael Ovitz's former company Artists Management Group in 2002, had been looking for a way to raise cash for months.

The Firm, which represents recording artists such as Limp Bizkit and Dixie Chicks as well as entertainers Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert DeNiro, Cameron Diaz and Vin Diesel, is one of a number of talent management companies in Hollywood that have been moving into brand management.

Last fall, the Firm also entered into a partnership with Virgin Group Ltd. Chairman and Chief Executive Richard Branson to acquire 50% of Virgin Drinks.

Pony was founded in 1972, and by the 1980s was a popular brand worn by a number of top athletes, including Wilt Chamberlain and Muhammad Ali, among others, before losing its cachet.

The Firm acquired the rights to the then-dormant brand in 2001 from British company Pentland.

"Global Brand is known as a product and design-driven company and that's the kind of company we wanted as a partner in Pony," said Steve Bannon, a Firm partner who is a member of the executive committee of the new company.

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