February 17, 2011

Castanea Partners Announces Investment in Donald J Pliner

Castanea Partners announced today that it has purchased a majority interest in Donald J Pliner, a premier designer and marketer of luxury footwear.

“Donald J Pliner is a terrific investment opportunity for us,” said Brian J. Knez, Managing Partner of Castanea. “We’ve been looking at the premium footwear sector for a number of years, and this new partnership provides the Company with the resources to accelerate its growth and enhance the prominence of the brand.”

Founded in 1989 by Donald Pliner, the Company established itself as a stylish and forward-thinking brand. The Company’s products are known for their cutting-edge design, high comfort and high quality, appealing to a broad urban and non-urban customer base. Donald J Pliner’s product line includes women’s and men’s dress and casual footwear. Headquartered in New York, the brand operates five Company-owned retail stores located in Miami, Coral Gables, Houston, Las Vegas and San Jose. Donald J Pliner products are sold nationwide in over 400 specialty stores and upscale department stores and online at donaldjpliner.com and other selected sites.

Donald Pliner will be an important partner in the business following the transaction. He will become the Company’s Creative Director as well as maintain a significant equity interest in the business. Mr. Pliner will be primarily responsible for design strategy and helping to build a team of senior designers. He will also assist with the Company’s marketing and brand positioning.

“Castanea’s extensive operating experience building premium consumer brands was imperative in selecting a partner. Their deep understanding of our industry will give us the strategic direction we need to take advantage of the many opportunities in front of the brand,” said Donald Pliner.

As part of the transaction, Castanea is teaming with Noel Hord to lead the Company as its CEO. Mr. Hord has previously served as President of U.S. Shoe, Nine West and New York Transit in addition to other senior executive positions in the footwear industry.

“I’m looking forward to working with Donald and the Castanea team”, added Noel Hord. “I believe my experience in the industry, supported by the existing operational talent within the organization and complemented by strategic new hires, will provide a foundation for the brand to reach its full potential.”

“We are excited to be working closely with Donald as our partner. He has built an exceptional brand with a loyal following that aligns well with Castanea’s investment philosophy,” noted Troy Stanfield, Partner for Castanea. “Donald’s design talent paired with Noel’s leadership will allow us to further strengthen the brand and reach consumers through multiple channels.”

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

About Castanea

Castanea is a private equity firm that works in partnership with founders and management teams of innovative passion brands to grow their businesses through a combination of capital investment and operating expertise. We are focused on select consumer verticals including beauty, food and beverage, multi-unit services, and enthusiast lifestyle. We typically invest between $15 to $150 million of equity in minority or majority transactions. Our team of talented operating executives offers critical expertise in key verticals and functional areas, and provides our partner companies with strategic and tactical support. Castanea has more than $1 billion in assets under management and is currently investing from a $735 million fourth fund. For more information about Castanea Partners read our story.

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