Art Of The Deal: Green Is the New Black

Fashion is suddenly a hot commodity for private-equity firms flush with cash. From Paris to New York City, they're taking their seat in the proverbial front row and betting on a business they once deemed too risky

IN DECEMBER 2003, Robert Burke, then fashion director of Bergdorf Goodman, was in Paris giving a talk on the booming business of fur accessories when he looked around the ballroom at the Hotel George V and noticed that a quarter of the seats were filled with men in business suits. During dinner and coffee breaks at the two-day luxury conference, the suits from places like Bear, Stearns cornered Burke and bombarded him with questions about luxury businesses—which ones had potential to add secondary lines and which ones could expand with worldwide licensing.

For years the luxury sector, now a $140 billion...

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