* Cole Haan will fetch $500 million
* Other private equity suitors included TPG and Berkshire
* Apax made several retail investments previously
By Soyoung Kim and Olivia Oran
NEW YORK, Nov 5 Nike Inc is in final negotiations to sell its Cole Haan handbag and shoe brand to private equity firm Apax Partners, in a deal that could fetch around $500 million, according to three people familiar with the matter.
Apax has prevailed over other private equity firms including TPG Capital Management and Berkshire Partners in the auction for Cole Haan, which sells footwear, clothing and leather handbags, the sources said on Monday.
London-based Apax has teamed up with former Converse Chief Executive Jack Boys to help run Cole Haan after a takeover, two of the people said.
The sale would come roughly 24 years after Nike acquired Cole Haan for $80 million, as the world's biggest athletic shoe and clothing maker seeks to focus on its namesake brand, as well as Jordan, Converse and Hurley.
Founded by Trafton Cole and Eddie Haan in 1928, the fashion label operates flagship stores in major U.S. cities and also sells its products at department stores and other retailers.
Nike said in May it was looking to sell Cole Haan and soccer gear unit Umbro and announced a $225 million deal last month to sell Umbro to Iconix Brand Group Inc. Nike hired Goldman Sachs Group Inc to assist with the auction, sources previously told Reuters.
The people asked not to be identified because details of the auction are not public. Representatives for Nike and Berkshire Partners did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Apax and TPG declined to comment.
Cole Haan is among several footwear companies that have gone on the auction block over the past year.
In May, footwear retailer Collective Brands Inc was purchased by a consortium including Wolverine Worldwide Inc , Blum Capital Partners and Golden Gate Capital for about $1.32 billion.
Family-owned footwear brand Doc Martens also explored a sale of the company, although the discussions ended earlier this summer.
Apax is an active acquirer in the retail sector. Last year, the firm acquired German discount clothing retailer Takko for roughly $1.7 billion. It also owns British-based retailer New Look Group and skiwear company Spyder Active Sports. Apax previously owned Tommy Hilfiger.