Exclusive: BCBG exploring sale, may fetch $1 billion - sources

NEW YORK Wed Feb 27, 2013 6:33pm EST

Designer Max Azria acknowledges the crowd as he waves at the BCBG Max Azria Autumn/Winter 2013 collection during New York Fashion Week February 7, 2013. REUTERS/Joshua Lott

Designer Max Azria acknowledges the crowd as he waves at the BCBG Max Azria Autumn/Winter 2013 collection during New York Fashion Week February 7, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Joshua Lott

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Fashion house BCBG Max Azria Group Inc, whose clothing has been worn by celebrities such as Beyonce and Angelina Jolie, is exploring a potential sale that could fetch around $1 billion, two people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

The company, which owns the BCBGeneration, Max Azria and Herve Leger lines, is being advised by Blackstone Group (BX.N) on the sale process, said the people, who declined to be named because the talks are private.

A spokeswoman for the Los Angeles-based company, founded and run by fashion designer Max Azria, confirmed it had retained Blackstone to advise on strategy. She did not elaborate.

Blackstone declined to comment.

BCBG could attract interest from other fashion companies or private equity firms, the people said.

Azria is a French designer of Tunisian descent. He launched the brand in 1989, assigning it the acronym BCBG for the French phrase "bon chic, bon genre," which means "good style, good attitude".

This is not BCBG's first time on the block. UBS tried to sell it in 2010, media reports at the time said.

The company, which offers fashionable clothes at accessible prices, has been under financial pressure since the economic crisis. Max Rave, a teen chain it acquired in 2008, was shut down several years later and the company has struggled with a debt load since then.

As of last year, Standard & Poor's said the company was in danger of breaching its financial covenants for a $230 million loan held by affiliates of Guggenheim Partners.

In December, S&P predicted that BCBG will continue to face stiff competition from numerous other clothing brands, at department stores such as Saks Inc SKS.N and Nordstrom (JWN.N), as well as at specialty apparel stores. It also said it viewed company management as weak, given its high reliance on Azria.

Lubov Azria, Max's wife, is the company's Creative Director.

(Reporting By Olivia Oran and Martinne Geller in New York, Editing by Soyoung Kim and Gunna Dickson)

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