Saturday, February 24, 2018
Business

Household icon Johnson & Johnson nabs Clearwater hair care firm Vogue International in $3.3 billion deal

After nearly 30 years of building a hair and body care products business, a privately held Clearwater company called Vogue International hit it big financially Thursday when it sold for $3.3 billion to one of the world's best regarded consumer products companies: Johnson & Johnson.

Multibillion-dollar transactions involving a local company and a global giant with a household name don't come along every day.

The purchase serves as fresh incentive to area entrepreneurs: Patience, street smarts and innovation and grit can help a small private company win the attention of even a Fortune 500 company — one that in this case sees serious value in a local enterprise to the tune of $3.3 billion.

That's a boatload of shampoo.

The deal is a significant reward for Vogue founder, CEO and 51-percent owner Todd Christopher and the Carlyle Group, an investment firm that in 2014 took a 49 percent stake in the company for $391 million. Its job as a giant private equity firm is to find and invest in promising smaller companies and help make them promising larger companies before selling them at a profit. (Among Carlyle's many global holdings is Tampa telecommunications firm Syniverse, acquired in 2011.)

But at the heart of this acquisition is Vogue International. It makes "salon influenced and nature inspired" beauty products that Johnson & Johnson believes it can scale up to reach a global market. Without such a viable product line, there would be no deal. The sale should close in the third quarter.

"This is an exciting and important new chapter in the growth and development of Vogue," said CEO Christopher, who launched Vogue in 1987 with his wife by selling hair care products out of their car. "Our commitment to quality and innovation will be magnified by Johnson & Johnson Consumer's array of marketing, R&D and support resources on a global basis."

Vogue's branded products include the OGX collection of shampoos, conditioners and styling/treatment and body and bath items, FX line of styling products, Proganix hair care and the Maui Moisture wholesome beauty line. Vogue's products are distributed to large retailers throughout the United States and in 38 countries.

Vogue will "complement our consumer portfolio, while also presenting attractive hair care category growth opportunities for Johnson & Johnson," stated Jorge Mesquita, worldwide chairman of J&J's consumer business.

Johnson & Johnson, whose consumer products include Band-Aid and Tylenol, did not buy Vogue out of the blue. Consumer product giants ranging from Unilever NV and Henkel & Co. to L'Oréal SA were reported to be among the companies submitting first-round bids in the auction for Vogue International.

Vogue's sales last year were more than $300 million and have been growing 25 percent annually, according to Wells Fargo Securities, which expects J&J to expand sales even further by taking the products to big box stores like Costco.

Separately, Johnson & Johnson last summer committed to expand into the Tampa market with plans to create 500 jobs averaging at least $75,000 over the next three years and make a capital investment of $23.5 million.

The company, which is ranked No. 37 on the Fortune 500, is one of only two U.S. non-financial companies that still retain a perfect AAA credit rating. The other is Microsoft.

Contact Robert Trigaux at [email protected] Follow @venturetampabay.

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