Luxury goods powerhouse LVMH, which was recently linked with Italian bike manufacturer Pinarello, is reportedly in talks to buy upmarket British cycling clothing brand, Rapha, according to the Mail on Sunday.
The London-based business, which has supplied Team Sky for the past three seasons but will no longer do so in 2017, was founded in 2004 by Simon Mottram, whose background is in brand consultancy.
Helped by the boom in road cycling over the past decade or so in the UK and elsewhere – the US, Australia and Japan are all significant markets for Rapha – the company achieved turnover of £48.8 million in the year to 31 January 2016, with pre-tax profit of £1.1 million.
The Mail on Sunday says that while a source confirmed the two parties were in talks, neither LVMH nor Rapha would comment.
Paris-based LVMH, owner of brands including Louis Vuitton, Moet & Chandon, Marc Jacobs, Dior, TAG Heuer and Bulgari, is known to be keen to build its presence in the sports and leisure sectors.
Earlier this year, LVMH together with the family holding company of CEO Bernard Arnault, took a stake in American private equity house Catterton, which specialised in investing in mid-market companies.
The new business, L Catterton, has investments in businesses including activewear brand Sweaty Betty and pet food manufacturer Lily’s Kitchen, while its holdings in the sports sector include compression clothing maker 2XU, the Peloton at-home fitness bike, sports drinks and supplements manufacturer X2 Performance, and the 360fly action camera brand.
Rapha is a brand that splits opinion like few others. Critics see it as overpriced, pretentious and taking itself too seriously, and it has inspired several spoof websites.
The company’s success, however, demonstrates that Mottram and his team understand their target market, who besides buying its products can unwind, watch races or join group rides at its shop-café Rapha Clubhouse stores.
There are 14 worldwide now as well as an outlet store in Somerset, complemented by occasional pop-ups elsewhere and Mobile Clubhouses on four continents.
Talking to BikeBiz in 2011 about one of those spoof websites, set up by a group calling itself Jens Voight Army (JVA), Mottram said: "Having detractors is part and parcel of having a distinctive brand.
"If you mean a lot to some people, you are almost bound to aggravate others. We would always rather have people loving or hating us than people not having an opinion. People don't parody or copy weak or uninteresting brands. Team JVA is proof to me that we are getting things right."
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.