WHP Global is taking a big step up with a $375 million investment from private equity giant Ares Management, which gave the brand management firm a $1.6 billion valuation and a new, higher profile in the world of fashion dealmaking.

Yehuda Shmidman cofounded WHP in 2019 with funds from Oaktree Capital Management and has steadily built a portfolio of brands, which includes Anne Klein, Joseph Abboud, Joe’s Jeans, Isaac Mizrahi, William Rast, Lotto and Toys ‘R’ Us. The firm also owns a 60 percent stake in the Express brand.

Altogether the brand management firm generates over $6.5 billion in retail sales. 

WHP was already expanding on a number of fronts, last year investing $260 million into Express to help the retailer scale internationally and become a platform to acquire additional brands.  

Now, the cash from Ares will help the WHP keep going. 

“This new significant investment from Ares gives us a powerful edge to capitalize on today’s robust M&A market as we chart the course for our next phase of growth,” Shmidman said in a statement, welcoming Ares to its group of backers, which along with Oaktree also includes Solus, Platform Founder Group and WHP employees.

“Our investment in WHP Global serves as a testament to the strength of its platform and the go-forward growth opportunity,” said Jordan Smith, partner in the Ares Private Equity Group. “We look forward to partnering with Yehuda and the WHP team on its mission to acquire and grow global consumer brands.”

Ares partners Jordan Smith and Aaron Rosen will join the company’s board.

The investment gives WHP some more dry powder as it squares off with Jamie Salter’s Authentic Brands Group, which has been on a tear, raising money from the likes of BlackRock, General Atlantic and Leonard Green and putting it to work buying brands as diverse as Reebok, Barneys New York, Brooks Brothers, Ted Baker and Forever 21, creating an empire with $24.5 billion in retail sales.

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