Levi’s had gone public once before, in 1971, generating proceeds of about $50 million. At the time, it was one of the largest ever IPOs, even as the family maintained a large stake. But while public, profits declined as did the company’s stock price. Descendants of Levi Strauss took the company private in a $1.7 billion leveraged buyout in 1984. They then did another buyout in 1996 that acquired stock from employees and outside investors, which consolidated ownership even more squarely in the hands of Strauss’ descendants.
In doing so, though, Levi’s took on billions of dollars in additional debt right at the time when the market was changing with the advent of the internet and e-commerce, and competition was growing.
After profit declines in recent years, Levi’s is seeing its top and bottom lines rise once again. on Oct. 9, Levi’s reported revenue of $1.4 billion for the quarter ended Aug. 26, a 10 percent increase from the same quarter a year ago. Net income was $130 million, representing a jump of 45 percent. During 2017, Levi’s posted revenue of nearly $5 billion. The company has also cut its debt load in half over the last two years, filings show.
Levi’s is currently run by Chip Bergh, who has been chief executive officer and president since 2011. Before that role, he spent about three decades at Procter & Gamble.
Levi’s declined to comment. Goldman and J.P. Morgan also declined to comment on the company’s IPO plans.
In January, Bergh told CNBC that about 10 percent of its business is now online, and that proportion is “growing really, really quickly.” Bergh said that its wholesale dot-com business is profitable and its online owned-and-operated business is approaching breakeven.
Levi’s designs and sells apparel under the Levi’s, Dockers and Denizen brands. The company operates about 2,900 retail stores but its products are sold in about 50,000 retail locations across 110 countries.
In May 2013, Levi’s won the naming rights to the new stadium for the San Francisco 49ers, located in Santa Clara, California. The stadium opened in 2014.