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by Iain Treloar
May 8, 2020
Photography by Kristof Ramon
Venerable French wheel brand Mavic has just been placed in receivership, according to an AFP report. That means that the business is probably in control of its creditors, although it’s not clear exactly who those are, and throws up a bunch of confusing questions about who actually owns Mavic.
Baffled? Yeah, us too. So let’s try to unpack this tangled ball of yarn together.
Mavic is a French company based near Annecy that was founded in 1889. The brand specialises in wheels, but also has sidelines in tyres, helmets, clothing and footwear. Over the years they’ve had their ups and downs, like any company would over a similar span of time, but we’ll pick up the thread in 2016.
At that point, Mavic was under the ownership of the Finnish sports group Amer Sports, who also own outdoors brands Salomon, Suunto, Atomic and Wilson, among others. In 2016, Amer added Enve to their portfolio, prompting speculation that Mavic and Enve would cross-pollinate ideas and rise together. At the time, our own James Huang hoped that “the cycling industry’s long and storied history of botched mergers and acquisitions won’t repeat itself yet again.”
In September 2018, Amer Sports – operating as a separate unit under the ownership of Anta Sports – announced that it was looking to sell off its cycling brands, Mavic and Enve. (On the bright side, at least James didn’t have to wait long to be disappointed). “We are not able to give [the two brands] enough scale and synergy potential,” Amer Sports CEO Heikki Takala said at the time. “We’ve been trying for quite some time and we’ve done good things but it’s clearly taking a lot of time and effort and it’s not responding in line with expectations.”
Happier days of greater synergistic connectitude.
With its cycling brands under “strategic review” – AKA “hey, does anyone want these?” – Amer Sports maintained a status quo for a whole three months. Then in December 2018, the company – still owning Mavic and Enve – was acquired by a consortium led by Chinese company Anta Sports.
In March 2019, Amer Sports reported its cycling divisions as ‘discontinued’, and announced the sale of Mavic to a US-based private equity firm, Regent. Enve stayed with Amer Sports, who were still in the process of transitioning under the umbrella of Anta Sports.
In July, the Mavic sale from the Anta-owned Amer to Regent was reported to have been finalised.
Here’s where the trail gets messy (well, messier). The industry was operating under the assumption that Mavic was happily ensconced in a relationship with Regent, and it’s only in the past week that it’s emerged that since February 2020, Mavic has actually been owned by someone else entirely – a Delaware-based group called M Sports International LLC, registered in February 2019, who don’t appear to exist on the internet at all (seriously, try and find them. They’re ghosts).
Mavic’s President, Gary Bryant, resigned on the same day that M Sports took over, with that company – whoever they are – installing a representative from a turnaround company called BySaving into the hot seat.
By earlier this week, Mavic had been placed in receivership by a commercial court in Grenoble.
Somewhat bafflingly, no one really seems sure what happened to the Regent deal, whether there’s any connection between Regent and M Sports, and what that all means for Mavic. It doesn’t even sound as if anyone’s totally clear on who owns what, including Mavic’s recent owners.
On its website, Regent lists Mavic as a current brand in its portfolio, saying it was acquired from Amer in July 2019. BRAIN reports that Alta Cycling Group – a cluster of other cycling brands acquired by Regent in 2019 – referred questions on the ownership of Mavic to Regent.
“For the last time, WHO OWNS YOU?!” – this guy, probably.
Meanwhile, in France, the sale of Mavic by Amer to Regent – if it even happened – is being probed by the courts. Mavic representative Gérard Meunier told France 3 that “Regent’s people came to Annecy in July 2019 to tell us that we were a sleeping gem, that they believed in Mavic. And since then, nothing. Not an investment, not an answer.”
“[We want to know] under what conditions Salomon and the Amer Sports group sold Mavic? And who is behind this company M Sports and why it acquired Mavic?,” Meunier said. “A few days ago, staff representatives learned that, contrary to what had been publicly announced, Salomon had not sold their business to Regent LP but to M Sports, based in Delaware (USA), with no capital link with Regent!”
One clue to M Sport’s ownership is that according to a French business filing from February this year the chairman of Regent, Michael Reinstein, is listed as a representative of M Sports International. However, that still makes the lack of a financial link between the two organisations a mystery.
For their part, Mavic said in a May 6 press release that they feel “incomprehensibly abandoned and [have] never really been taken over, neither by Regent LP, nor by M Sports.”
French unions, under Mavic’s urging, are now pushing Salomon – a skiing brand under the umbrella of Amer Sports, and a co-resident of Mavic’s Annecy factory – to take accountability for Mavic, which sounds like an unholy mess of a situation.
To summarise: Mavic don’t seem to know who owns them. Regent says that they do. The French courts say that they don’t. A sub-brand of Amer Sports, Mavic’s owner from a year ago, seems to be on the hook for something, but we’re not really sure what. And, we’ve now got a headache.
If we know one thing for sure, it’s this: Mavic’s in a bit of a sticky spot.