Exclusive-KKR to buy Varsity Brands from Bain Capital for $4.75 billion, sources say

By Abigail Summerville

(Reuters) – Private equity firm KKR & Co agreed to acquire Varsity Brands, a U.S. maker of sports uniforms and school yearbooks, from buyout firm Bain Capital for about $4.75 billion, including debt, people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

KKR will own Varsity Brands through its Americas private equity fund, the sources said, requesting anonymity because the deal has not yet been announced.

KKR has committed to offering rank-and-file employees of its North America portfolio companies equity in these companies, and will do so with Varsity Brands, the sources said. This is an incentive the corporate world traditionally reserves for senior executives.

KKR, Bain Capital and Varsity Brands declined to comment.

Bain acquired Varsity Brands in 2018 from private equity firms Charlesbank Capital Partners and Partners Group for around $2.5 billion. Reuters reported last year that Bain was exploring a sale or initial public offering of Varsity Brands.

Varsity Brands consists of two main businesses, BSN SPORTS and Varsity Spirit. BSN distributes customizable team sports equipment and apparel through partnerships with brands including Nike and Under Armor.

Varsity Spirit sells cheerleader uniforms and apparel, and also hosts educational camps, clinics and competitions. It also makes school yearbooks, which used to be part of Varsity’s Herff Jones graduation merchandise division.

Varsity kept the yearbooks business when it sold Herff Jones to private equity firm Atlas Holdings last year.

The deal comes as buyout firms have been actively pursuing deals with sports apparel businesses, which typically generate steady returns for investors due to their predictable cash flows.

ACON Investments is preparing to take U.S. sports league headwear company New Era Cap public, Reuters has previously reported.

Earlier this year, Platinum Equity acquired sports uniform companies Augusta Sportswear and Founder Sport Group.

(Reporting by Abigail Summerville in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot)