Babywear and maternity wear retailer JoJo Maman Bébé – whose high-profile customers include the Duchess of Cambridge – has been taken over by big business Next and a group of investment firms.
Laura Tenison, who started the business in 1993 from her shared kitchen table and grew it into one of Britain’s leading mother and baby retailers, said the new owners had “plans exciting to grow and grow the brand much faster than we ever could, giving us the opportunity to open up new markets”.
However, as part of the deal, she will leave the company.
Next acquired 44% of the company’s shares, with the remaining 56% being acquired by investment companies managed or advised by the hedge fund Davidson Kempner Capital Management. The shares were acquired from existing JoJo shareholders, including Tenison.
In addition to its websites, JoJo Maman Bébé has 87 outlets and employs over 950 people in the UK.
The company told staff that the new owners “wish to keep our stores where they trade profitably”, adding that in the future “there may be opportunities for more stores”. [and] new international websites”.
The value of the deal was not disclosed and it is unclear how much Tenison received for his majority stake in the company.
Tenison started the business after a serious car accident while living in France left her in hospital. In interviews, she said her companion was a young mother of two young children who amused herself by ordering from mail-order catalogs.
“[Living in rural France] I couldn’t help noticing how well-dressed children in France were. You would see them walking along the beach with their grandparents whatever the weather, in their awesome waterproof overalls and fisherman jackets, picking things up in the sand,” she said. told an interviewer in 2020.
Having been so inspired, in 1993 she started the JoJo business from her shared flat in London, with her “warehouse”, her parents’ shed in South Wales.
Commenting on the deal, Tenison said: “Turning JoJo from a kitchen table start-up to the leading specialist boutique brand for mothers and babies in the UK has been my focus for the past 30 years. I am exceptionally proud of our accomplishments and excited about the opportunities this new partnership will provide for the future of the brand.
She told staff that it was important to Next and the other businesses “that we retain the brand’s identity, values and flair, while allowing JoJo to benefit from the economies of scale of their larger umbrella. …Next and DK [Davidson Kempner] believe, like us, that our stores have a great value for the whole… of the company. She added that she would maintain her own dedicated website.
Gwynn Milligan, who joined JoJo Maman Bébé in 2017 as chief commercial officer, has taken over as general manager, and the other directors will remain in place.
Next said the company would retain its managerial autonomy and creative independence. Next will also make a £16.3 million investment in the brand, funded by its own cash resources.
Simon Wolfson, Managing Director of Next, said: “We are excited to see what can be achieved through the combination of JoJo’s exceptional product with Next’s infrastructure and Davidson Kempner as an investment partner.