When Philippe and Lilian Jacquelinet started their company Captain Tortue in 1993, they knew that direct selling was key to promoting their children’s clothing line.
They were right. Twenty-five years and three LBOs later, Captain Tortue is a leading European clothing company, with turnover of €66 million.
Philippe Jacquelinet: There were two reasons for our first LBO. First, we had to make the company successful. My wife and I were so involved in day-to-day operations that we thought it was important to have a structure that wasn’t completely dependent on the two of us. Secondly, we wanted to ensure that the initial work we had done up to that point was financially viable. That’s why we gave 18% of our capital to BNP Paribas Développement and Défi Gestion, the investment fund of the Banque Cantonale Vaudoise, and kept an 82% majority.
PJ: At that time, we had two years’ advance on our business plan and decided to bring Edmond de Rothschild Investment Partners into the fold. We liked that they were backed by Edmond de Rothschild Private Banking, because we were actually looking for a second wealth management bank at the time. More importantly, we felt that we shared a common mindset and vision for development projects. That's key, since an LBO is like a marriage, only shorter!
When we bought into the capital of Captain Tortue, the company already had a solid foundation and a good growth outlook. Our work together was focused on internationalisation and expanding their product range, without losing sight of the company structure.
We quickly established a constructive rapport and entered into a true partnership. While fast-tracking their international development, we were able to seize a nice opportunity for external growth with a lingerie company.
PJ: When the LVMH fund was interested in us, we were honoured. But more importantly, it was the right time for us to bring in an expert from the textile industry who could bring very specific knowledge to Captain Tortue Group (including website and online shopping expertise and, more importantly, international growth experience). As a result of this LBO, we became minority shareholders with 35% of the capital. LCapital held 60% and our two original shareholders held 5%. As a founder and entrepreneur, giving up the majority was not an easy decision for me to make. But at the end of the day, with the right partners and ones that we trust, it doesn’t change anything. I’m still the CEO of Captain Tortue.
PJ: First, investing in private equity funds allows me to diversify my wealth while ensuring an attractive return. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, it allows me to be in contact with the CEOs and business talents of the future. I can do more than just support them financially; I can give them advice. To me, private equity is more interesting than investing in the stock market. It has people, ideas, stories, etc.
Company directors are completely absorbed in managing operations. They don’t have time to step back and consider their wealth, even though it is essential for themselves and their family. That is why we support them from the very beginning, so that they can ask themselves the right questions and arrange things accordingly.
Ideally, we would intervene a few years before a partial or total handover. In some cases, we only need a few months, which was what we did with the Jacquelinets. With regular follow-up and advice from our clients, we can effectively adjust the strategies that are in place.