Brand management firm WHP Global has received a $375 million equity investment from funds managed by the private equity group of Ares Management Corporation to fuel its next wave of brand acquisitions. The transaction values WHP at $1.6 billion.
Founded in 2019 by retail industry veteran Yehuda Shmidman with funds managed by Oaktree Capital Management, WHP’s portfolio of brands now generates more than $6.5 billion in global retail sales across three verticals:
- Fashion, anchored by the Express, Anne Klein and Joseph Abboud brands;
- Hard goods, anchored by the Toys ‘R’ Us and Babies ‘R’ Us brands; and
- Athleticwear, anchored by Lotto.
“This new significant investment from Ares gives us a powerful edge to capitalize on today’s robust M&A market as we chart the course for our next phase of growth,” said Shmidman, Chairman and CEO of WHP Global in a statement. “We’re thrilled for this partnership with Ares, and excited to advance our company alongside our existing shareholder base that includes Oaktree, Solus, Platform Founder Group and WHP employees.”
Geoffrey’s Tour Across America Celebrates Beloved Toys ‘R’ Us Mascot
Over the last four years WHP Global has rapidly re-established its flagship brands, Toys ‘R’ Us and Babies ‘R’ Us, bringing the beloved chains back to retail after their 2018 bankruptcy. A Toys ‘R’ Us flagship launched at the American Dream mall in New Jersey in December 2021, and a Babies ‘R’ Us flagship will join it this summer. In 2022, WHP also expanded its Toys ‘R’ Us store-in-store partnership with Macy’s chainwide, and now the company is launching a free, immersive brand experience featuring mascot Geoffrey the Giraffe that will travel across the U.S. this summer.
Geoffrey’s Tour Across America is being developed in partnership with marketing agency Known. Toys ‘R’ Us will unveil the Geoffrey Mobile, a 38-foot custom RV, that will take Geoffrey the Giraffe on a multi-city tour, which will kick off at the Macy’s flagship store in New York City’s Herald Square on July 20, 2023, then travel to cities across the country with several stops at other Macy’s flagships. The newly announced dates include:
- Macy’s Herald Square in NYC – Thursday, July 20 at 10am ET
- American Dream in East Rutherford, NJ – Friday, July 21
- King of Prussia in King of Prussia, PA – Saturday, July 22
- Fashion Centre at Pentagon City in Arlington, VA – Monday, July 24
- Haywood Mall in Greenville, SC – Wednesday, July 26
- Lenox Square in Atlanta, GA – Thursday, July 27
- The Florida Mall in Orlando, FL – Saturday, July 29
Each stop will feature weekend-long events with interactive experiences, family entertainment, food, brand activations, giveaways and VIP experiences. The tour also will feature a number of integrated co-marketing partnerships with brands.
In celebration of the inaugural Tour, Toys ‘R’ Us will host a national sweepstakes for customers in the U.S. to enter for a chance to win toy prizes. The campaign will run July 20-August 15, 2023, and will be open to all consumers. Participants can enter to win by visiting the campaign site or scanning the QR code on the Geoffrey Mobile as it passes by. Each stop on the tour will have a themed play package of toys awarded to one winner. Plus, one grand prize winner will receive an Ultimate Play Pack. Winners will be announced starting on or around August 25, 2023.
WHP Global Dips Further into Fashion
While Toys ‘R’ Us has captured much of the spotlight, WHP has been steadily working to diversify and develop its brand slate, an effort that will get a big boost with the new funding. In June 2022, WHP announced plans for a line of Anne Klein furniture, and in December 2022, the firm announced a broad partnership with Express that will expand that retailer’s brand through global licensing deals, and also see the two companies acquire additional fashion brands together.
“Our investment in WHP Global serves as a testament to the strength of its platform and the go-forward growth opportunity,” said Jordan Smith, Partner in the Ares Private Equity Group in a statement. “We look forward to partnering with Yehuda and the WHP team on its mission to acquire and grow global consumer brands.”
As part of the investment transaction, Smith and fellow Ares Private Equity Group Partner Aaron Rosen will both join WHP Global’s Board of Directors.