Supreme will soon have a new owner, as VF Corp has agreed to purchase the streetwear brand in a deal worth $2.1 billion. The Denver-based corporation — which also owns The North Face, Vans, and Timberland — announced the acquisition in a press release Monday morning. According to Women's Wear Daily, VF Corp will take ownership of a 100-percent stake in Supreme.
"We are proud to join VF, a world-class company that is home to great brands we’ve worked with for years, including The North Face, Vans, and Timberland," Supreme founder James Jebbia said in a release. "This partnership will maintain our unique culture and independence, while allowing us to grow on the same path we’ve been on since 1994."
The Carlyle Group previously obtained a 50 percent share of the New York City-based streetwear brand in 2017 in a deal that valued Supreme at $1 billion. VF Corp says it expects Supreme to contribute $500 million to the corporation's bottom line in 2021 alone.
What's going to change? — As VF Corp tells it, business will go on as usual for Supreme. "We’re not coming in with a new plan or approach, because frankly they’re pretty darn good at it" Scott Roe, VF Corp executive vice president and CFO, told WWD. "Supreme has done a masterful job in the COVID period and maintained that flexible connection with this consumer. When stores closed, their online business was robust and through the COVID period they’ve actually grown their business at a high-single digit rate year-to-date and even accelerated recently."
Jebbia will remain in charge of Supreme, and its headquarters will stay in New York City. And despite what consumers may fear, the likelihood of the brand ending up in Zumiez and PacSun is incredibly low. With just 12 stores worldwide, Supreme's online sales reportedly account for 60 percent of its revenue — a robust direct-to-consumer relationship that makes the brand so appealing.
From the outside, little has changed since Supreme welcomed its first outside investment from The Carlyle Group. The brand maintained strict control over its distribution and messaging, and the only widely available products have been its undergarments made in collaboration with Hanes. The Supreme Air Force 1s have joined the Hanes products as the only items to be regularly restocked but still sell out whenever they become available again.
What seems most likely is a ramped up scale for Supreme's collaborations with The North Face, Vans, and Timberland. Up until now, Supreme has been the only source for these products, but distribution could go wider through the collaborators' own channels.
Bye bye, Carlyle — VF Corp's acquisition of the brand is expected to be completed by the end of the calendar year. The deal should net both Supreme and The Carlyle Group, the private equity investor that routinely buys and sells other companies for a steep profit, more than $1 billion each.
In the year's since Carlyle's investment, Supreme has been criticized for taking money from a shadowy firm that built its empire in the military industrial complex. Aligning with such a party, even if it has moved away from defense contractors as its bread and butter, is at odds with Supreme's often punk messaging. But one need only look at Johnny Rotten's MAGA shirt as proof that punk has strayed far from purity.