Pharrell Williams has purchased back the 50 percent share of his brand, Billionaire Boys Club aka BBC, owned by Iconix Brand Group, a New York-based brand management company whose names include Rocawear, Starter, Joe Boxer and Pony, among others. Iconix stated that the brand accounted for less than 1 percent of total revenue.
Now back in charge of BBC, a label he launched in 2005, Williams will be able to exert more control over design and just as importantly, distribution. One has to assume Williams has been eyeing the vibrancy of the men’s fashion scene and given his established credentials as style leader and influencer, sees an opportunity to build a respected brand, perhaps taking a path not unlike that of Kanye West.
Williams’ decision to take back complete ownership of his company when he did was likely also influenced by troubles that surfaced at Iconix in November when an interim CEO revealed the company may have may issued misleading business information to investors.
More recently it was announced the company is under investigation by the SEC. The news combined with poor third-quarter earnings has caused the company’s stock priced to fall off of a cliff, leaving the company in a position where it’s more open to negotiate on the selling price of its brands.
Williams’ lost a lot of control of BBC in 2011 when Jay-Z announced through Twitter he was partnering with the brand through his own label Rocawear. And while Jay-Z at the time claimed control of design and marketing of both Williams’ and his label, Iconix’s majority stake in Rocawear brought BBC under its umbrella.
Just one year later, the NY Post reported that half the staff at Rocawear had been laid off. In the article, an insider alleged Jay-Z was no longer interested in promoting the Rocawear brand and was receiving more money in fees than the brand was making.
Williams is not buying back the same brand he created eleven years ago. Generic design and careless distribution during its time under Iconix management have tarnished its reputation, and if Williams’ goal is to improve its status, it will not be an easy undertaking.
As well, given the streetwear category’s current struggles, unless he partners with another company, it probably will mean the company won’t immediately be profitable.
That said, Pharrell has worked with Adidas in the past so again, taking a page out of West’s book, one possible option is partnering with a global brand like Adidas (or Nike or Puma or VF Corp.) on footwear while maintaining control over apparel.
Given his clout and reputation, he definitely will have options and it’s a good bet that since the announcement has been made, Pharrell has been on the receiving end of more than a few parties interested in working with him.