Reviving Iconic Luxury Brands: JCU Institute for Entrepreneurship Welcomes Stephen Julius
On February 2, 2022, the JCU Institute for Entrepreneurship welcomed Stephen Julius for a talk called “Reviving Distressed, Iconic Luxury Brands.” Julius is Founder and CEO at Stellican Ltd, a London-based business that focuses on acquiring bankrupt or distressed luxury brands and re-launching them for exceptional returns. After providing an overview of his private equity group, Julius presented four case studies of brands he turned around for a profit.
A common strategy for Julius throughout his entrepreneurial career is to utilize the history of the brands he acquires and re-energize them through new marketing and cost strategies. He began with the American company Indian Motorcycle, which was the largest producer of motorcycles for nearly 50 years, but became inoperable in the latter half of the 20th century. Julius acquired the company in the early 2000’s and was able to sell it for more than double his initial investment through utilizing the brand’s recognition and targeting existing Indian Motorcycle enthusiasts.
Julius then discussed Chris Craft and Rita, both luxury watercraft companies with exceptional histories, but that later fell into disrepair. He acquired both companies, turned them around, and sold them for immense profits. A key aspect of Julius’ strategy is obtaining complete control over a company so he can best implement the necessary changes without being beholden to outside investors or financial institutions. This was shown during his time at Rita, where he was able to restructure the union agreements that had paralyzed the company in the past.
The last case Julius described involved Vicenza Calcio, a Serie A soccer club in Italy. He recognized a severe undervaluation in the club’s worth and jumped at the opportunity, despite having very little knowledge of the industry beforehand. He changed the business model of the club completely to resemble the more profitable English football model. In 1999, he sold the company for 39% internal rate of return (IRR) over two years.
Julius emphasized the importance of knowing when to weather cyclical markets and implement an exit strategy. He also showed how burgeoning entrepreneurs can begin with very little equity and continuously build off previous investments. Julius’ presentation gave students an invaluable insight into the life and mindset of a successful entrepreneur.