Hudson’s Bay to sell Lord and Taylor

Clothing rental company Le Tote acquires the legacy retail brand amid HBC's attempts to go private.

Hudson’s Bay Company has reached a deal to sell its Lord and Taylor banner to U.S.-based clothing subscription company Le Tote.

Le Tote will acquire the Lord and Taylor brand, related intellectual property and retail operations, including 38 stores, digital channels and inventory. HBC will get $99.5 million when the deal closes, along with another $33.2 million payable in two years.

As part of the deal, HBC will also receive an equity stake in Le Tote and two seats on the company’s board, giving it a presence in the growing clothing rental category.

Le Tote is a subscription service that allows customers to rent clothing items from 150 brand partners and return them after they have been worn. Categories range from casual to athleisure to office wear to maternity, and features items from brands including French Connection, Vince Camuto, Kate Spade, Rebecca Minkoff, Cole Haan and Nike. Le Tote is one of the bigger players in the category, along with more high-end options like Rent the Runway (which partnered with Nordstrom earlier this year), or ones from traditional retailers looking to spur growth, like Banana Republic, Urban Outfitters and Ann Taylor. Le Tote has raised over $62.5 million in funding since launching in 2012, and expanded its service to China last year.

Earlier this year, HBC closed Lord & Taylor’s flagship store in New York City, one of a handful of closures as the company looked to increase its focus on digital and improve profitability (the building also sold for over $1 billion).

Real estate has been a major point of contention amid investors objecting attempts by HBC chairman Richard Baker to take the company private. Baker announced a $1 billion bid in June (or $9.45 a share) amid lacklustre quarterly results and declining stock prices over the last five years (though it did spike earlier this summer when Baker made his bid). He said that to improve the company’s performance, it needed a long-term view, and not the emphasis on short-term results of the public market. Some investors, however, have stated the proposed acquisition price is not high enough, given the value of its real estate holdings (like the Lord and Taylor flagship). Private equity firm Catalyst Capital Group and activist investor Jonathan Litt have both increased their stakes in the company, potentially blocking the privatization plan.