The Keds people are happy!

In a compelling buy-out of the Collective Brands stable, Wolverine, along with Blum Capital Partners and Golden Gate Capital is buying the Collective Brands’ Performance and Lifestyel Group of brands including Sperry Top-Sider, Saucony, Stride Rite, and Keds for $1.23 billion. This will bring the Wolverine stable of brands, which includes Merrell, Caterpillar, and Hush Puppies to 16 in total.

The main initiative with the Collective Brands, which are strong in the United States, is to position them for international expansion. As Blake W. Krueger, the Wolverine Worldwide Chairman and CEO told NBC in an interview, the main brand they liked most was Sperry Top-Sider, which he said was positioned very well and was “white hot” in the United States and especially popular among females. With these brands on board, Wolverine will become a $2.5 billion global footwear and lifestyle brand powerhouse.

“Our Company is thrilled to add these four iconic brands to our proven global platform,” said Blake W. Krueger, Wolverine Worldwide Chairman and CEO. “This transaction provides dynamic portfolio expansion and diversification, and significant additional horsepower in five of our targeted growth areas – women’s, athletic, casual, kids and retail. This transformational acquisition creates a powerful array of leading lifestyle brands that is balanced across product categories, genders and target consumers, with enormous opportunities for domestic and international growth.”

“Our Company has a proven track record of successfully growing brands of this size, in terms of both international reach and margin expansion,” continued Krueger. “Gregg Ribatt and his leadership team have done a great job building a world-class organization and they have delivered outstanding revenue growth over the past several years. We are pleased to welcome the entire PLG team to the Wolverine family, and we look forward to joining forces and continuing to build on their accomplishments. We intend to leverage our Company’s best-in-class sourcing organization, robust technology infrastructure and proven experience in building brands internationally to deliver even more growth for our shareholders.”

“This significant acquisition is an incredibly positive statement about the strength of our Company, our proven business model and confidence in our ability to grow both existing and newly acquired brands around the world,” said Don Grimes, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. “This transaction, because of both the significant opportunities for future growth and the historically low interest rate environment, promises to deliver meaningful earnings accretion and generate a very attractive return for Wolverine shareholders. Our historically strong cash flow, combined with the incremental profitability and cash flow of the newly acquired brands, will give us the ability to aggressively reduce debt over the next few fiscal years.”

The news of the buyout comes at the end of a string of stories speculating the break-up of the Collective Brands, which also includes Collective Licensing including Airwalk and Vision. Collective Brands was formed in 2007 when Payless ShoeSource acquired the Collective Brands Performance + Lifestyle Group (formerly the Stride Rite Corporation) and Collective Licensing International. Payless Shoes is one of the largest footwear retailers in the Western hemisphere and Collective Licensing International is a leading youth lifestyle marketing and global licensing business.