Blackstone has completed its majority purchase of SPANX, an Atlanta-based maker of hosiery and shapewear for women, in a deal valuing the company at $1.2 billion.
Additional new investors in SPANX participating in the closing include celebrity female entrepreneurs Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Whitney Wolfe Herd, as well as female-founded investment funds G9 Ventures and Able Partners.
SPANX was founded by Sara Blakely 21 years ago when she took $5,000 in savings and set out to take on the male-dominated shapewear and undergarment industry. Blakely, who had never taken a business class in her life and was selling fax machines door to door at the time, wrote her own patent and invented the first SPANX undergarment in her apartment. Without ever taking any outside investment, she went on to turn SPANX into a global powerhouse that has changed the lives of women all over the world. Blakely has been named one of TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the world and was featured on the cover of Forbes magazine as the youngest self-made female billionaire. Through her personal foundation, Blakely has given millions of dollars to help elevate other women and in 2013 she signed the Giving Pledge, promising to donate half her wealth to philanthropy.
“I’m thrilled to welcome Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Whitney Wolfe Herd, G9 Ventures and Able Partners as investors of SPANX! This is an incredible, ‘pinch-me!’ full-circle moment because both Oprah and Reese have been longtime supporters of SPANX, and Whitney has been a gamechanger for women in business. Oprah was a big reason for SPANX’s early success when she named it one of her iconic ‘Favorite Things’ in 2000,” said Blakely, who now serves as Executive Chairwoman of SPANX. “To have the support of these smart, thoughtful, world-class female-founders who have also disrupted their industries to elevate and support women means everything. As we like to say at SPANX, ‘we’ve got your butt covered!’ With these new partnerships, that promise is as true as ever. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the brand — and most importantly — for our customers.”
Oprah Winfrey said: “When Sara first came on The Oprah Show to tell us about her idea for SPANX, I knew it was brilliant. We’d all been cutting off our panty hose for years! So from the moment I wore my first pair, they became a staple in my wardrobe. It’s remarkable the business that Sara and her team have created, with the comfort and support of all women at the heart of their creations, and I’m happy to be part of the evolution.”
Reese Witherspoon, Founder of Hello Sunshine, said: “As a self-made founder who has built an absolute powerhouse of a brand, Sara is an inspiration to female entrepreneurs everywhere. In addition to developing a remarkable product and business that literally supports women every day, Sara has become a role model for leveraging your success to elevate other women. I’m so proud of Sara and the entire SPANX team, and I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for this incredible company.”
Ann Chung, Global Head of Consumer for Blackstone Growth (BXG), said: “Since creating the shapewear category more than two decades ago, Sara has built the company into a leading apparel brand and online force – and they’re just getting started. We’re so excited to partner with their team and this iconic group of co-investors to further accelerate the business’ growth through new product innovation, geographic expansion and continued digital transformation.”
As previously announced, Blackstone and SPANX intend to create an all-female SPANX board of directors, and Blackstone’s investment team for the transaction was all women. Blakely will continue to maintain a significant equity stake. Blakely, along with SPANX’s existing senior management team, will also continue to oversee daily operations.
Blackstone’s investment in SPANX, made through its Blackstone Growth (BXG) and Tactical Opportunities businesses, is the most recent example of a number of innovative female-founded companies the firm is proud to back. This includes in just the last two years Bumble, the online dating app where women make the first move founded by Whitney Wolfe Herd; Hello Sunshine, the media company that puts women at the center of every story it creates, founded by Reese Witherspoon; Hotwire Communications, a leading provider of cutting-edge fiber-based telecommunication services co-founded by its CEO Kristin Johnson; GeoComply, a global leader in geolocation compliance technology, co-founded by its Chairman Anna Sainsbury; and Medable, a leading cloud platform for patient-centered clinical research, co-founded by Dr. Michelle Longmire. This is in addition to female-led technology businesses in which Blackstone has invested such as Ancestry.com, Articulate and Ellucian.
SPANX was represented by Goldman & Sachs and Allen & Co. in the transaction, with legal representation from Cravath, Swaine and Moore. King & Spalding served as Blakely’s legal advisor. Blackstone’s financial advisor for the transaction was JPMorgan and legal advisor was Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP.