By the time K-Swiss Inc. agreed to sell to an apparel company in South Korea earlier this month, the shoe company had long since lost pace with its competitors.

In recent years, the Westlake Village company had fallen out of touch with footwear trends. It scrambled and put millions of dollars into marketing with little effect and as a result, lost a lot of money.

For most of the past year, shares traded below $4. But news that E. Land World Ltd. in Seoul offered to pay $4.75 a share for the company – a 49 percent premium at the time of the offer – boosted the stock price. K-Swiss was the biggest gainer on the LABJ Stock Index last week after it closed up more than 48 percent at $4.73 on Jan. 23. (See page 48.)

Analyst Sam Poser with Sterne Agee & Leach Inc. in New York said he thinks K-Swiss sold to E. Land World because Chief Executive Steven Nichols wanted to retire and had to make a choice about the company’s future.

“He probably wanted to hand the business to his son, David, but if you look at what it would cost to right the ship, I think he realized the company would be worth less a year from now given the kind of progress they’ve been making, unfortunately,” he said.

By the end of the third quarter, the company reported that revenue for the year to date – about $182 million – was already down about 17 percent from the same period the previous year. Furthermore, domestic sales of its namesake K-Swiss shoe brand dropped an alarming 40 percent. International sales only fell 5 percent.

But as the K-Swiss brand has lost favor with American consumers, the company’s second brand – Palladium – has been gaining ground in the United States. The French boot brand, which K-Swiss acquired in two transactions in 2008 and 2009 for a total of about $15.5 million, increased sales by almost 79 percent domestically in the first three quarters of 2012, and by 8 percent overseas. In 2011, Palladium boots made up about 16 percent of sales for the company.

Jeff Van Sinderen, an analyst with B. Riley & Co. LLC in Los Angeles, said Palladium’s growing business is likely what most attracted E. Land World.

“I think it’s sort of the jewel that the acquirer wanted,” he said. “I’m sure that they will continue to run the Palladium business on a similar course, to grow it in the United States and grow it overseas.”


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