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Royal Robbins is sold for $40M

A St. Louis company announced Thursday that it bought Royal Robbins Inc. of Modesto, a designer and seller of outdoor clothing, for about $40 million.

The buyer, Kellwood Co., doesnot plan major changes tothe Modesto operations, said Donna Weaver, vice president of corporate communications for the new owner.

In Modesto, Royal Robbins has its main offices, a warehouse and a retail outlet, to-gether employing 50 to 60 people in recent years.

"Royal Robbins is a great brand offering an excellent product assortment, which was one of the main reasons Kellwood was attracted to the business," Weaver said in an e-mail.

It was the third ownership change in six years for Royal Robbins, founded in 1968 by mountain climbing pioneers Royal and Liz Robbins of Modesto.

They sold the company to Modesto entrepreneur Dan Costa in 2001. Costa sold it in 2003 to Phoenix Footwear Group Inc., based in Carlsbad, San Diego County, for $11.7 million.

Kellwood markets clothing, camping gear and baby supplies under nearly 40 labels, including license arrangements with Calvin Klein and Liz Claiborne fashion houses. It reported sales of $1.96 billion in 2006.

Royal Robbins' sales are far less, but they have been growing fast. Costa put them at about $12 million in 2001 and more than $20 million in 2003. AKellwood news release said sales were about $30 million last year.

Bob Orlando will continue as president of Royal Robbins, headquartered on Princeton Avenue. Kellwood is placing the brand in its American Recreation Products division, which includes camping gear brands such as Kelty and Sierra Designs.

'The perfect fit'

The Robbinses started by selling mountaineering equipment in 1968. They got into the clothing business in 1975 because they could not find what they needed to wear on their outdoor adventures.

It started with Billy Goat Shorts, which were designed by Liz Robbins and remain a key product. Today, the brand includes shorts, pants, shirts, jackets, hats and other apparel designed for outdoor recreation and travel.

"We have been searching for the right outdoor apparel company to add to our division's product mix, and Royal Robbins is the perfect fit," George Grabner Jr., president of American Recreation Products, said in a news release.

The sale brought Phoenix Footwear Group a net gain of about $23 million, including transaction costs, said Jim Riedman, that company's chairman. Phoenix officials said the money will help them pay down debt and build up their remaining brands.

Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at or 578-2385.