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CALIFORNIA / News and Insight on Business in the
Golden State

OP Apparel Is Acquired by Bay Area Firm

September 30, 1998|ROSE APODACA JONES | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Ocean Pacific Apparel Corp., one of the oldest and best-known surf wear brands in Southern California, said Tuesday that it has been acquired by a Bay Area investment firm.

Doyle & Boissiere Fund LLC of San Francisco, a $100 million-plus investment company affiliated with Phoenix-based Finova Group, acquired an 86% stake in the Irvine surf wear maker. Terms weren't disclosed.

OP Chief Executive Richard Baker said the deal "now gives us a proactive investment group whose sole reason is to market OP brands, and that bodes very well for us in 1999."

Doyle purchased the controlling interest from San Francisco-based Berkeley International Capital Corp., which bought into OP in 1993.

"It's a good opportunity for someone to come in and put in enough working capital to really grow the business," said John Quarterman, assistant general counsel at Berkeley. "Surf wear is really hot right now, but we weren't really prepared to make that type of investment."

He said Berkeley earned a "nice, but not huge" return on its OP investment, but he declined to disclose the amount.

Baker, who bought a small stake in OP as part of the deal, said the new owners plan no changes in management. Neither William Doyle nor Lionel Boissiere, who were returning to California from New York on Tuesday, could be reached for comment. Their fund invests in under-performing mid-sized companies.

For Baker, the deal ends a yearlong search for the right partner to help him reinvent the apparel maker.

In June, Baker announced that Montreux Equity, a San Francisco venture capital firm, was on the verge of buying OP. But as the discussions bogged down over price, other investors came calling. "The success of our business at trade shows this summer prompted a lot of interest," Baker said Tuesday.

The 51-year-old Baker, a former president of women's wear at Tommy Hilfiger and Esprit, joined OP in February 1997.

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