Harry Winston chairman confirms it has signed ‘letter of intent’ with Aber

Ronald Winston, chairman of the Harry Winston Group, has confirmed that the company plans to sell at least part of its venerable retail jewelry business to Aber Diamond Corp., a Canadian diamond mining firm.

In an internal announcement obtained by JCK, Winston confirmed, as previously reported, that the company has signed a non-binding letter of intent with Aber. Specific details were not revealed in the internal communication but Winston did say that Aber would be a “partner” in the business and that he will continue as chairman “whether or not the Aber transaction proceeds.”

A spokesperson for Harry Winston told JCK that Aber is buying a “portion” of the business and a deal could be reached as early as February. Again, specific details, such as financial terms were unavailable.

Ronald Winston is the son of Harry Winston, who founded “The House of Harry Winston” in 1932. Ronald owns a major share of the business and has led it since his father’s death in 1978. Fenway Partners, a private equity firm, bought a large share of the retailer in 2000.

Winston said that he and Fenway “intend to maintain significant ongoing ownership positions.”

Winston said the reason for the decision to partner with Aber was based on the need to raise additional money for the company’s five-year expansion plan with a focus on “opening new salons and points of distribution in strategic markets in Asia, Europe, and in the United States.” The plan calls for the opening of 100 shops that sell Harry Winston jewelry and watches.

“As we developed the strategic plan over the last couple of years, we realized that the successful execution of the plan would require additional capital for growth,” he said in the announcement to employees. “We began a process to identify outside strategic investors who could not only provide us with necessary capital, but also with experience in the diamond business. Aber endorses the strategic growth plan that we have developed and will help us accelerate its implementation. Aber’s investment will take the form of additional new capital that will come into the business to fund this growth plan.”

He continued, “What this will mean for Harry Winston is that we will be opening new salons, introducing new product, and expanding the breadth and depth of our inventory at a more rapid pace without jeopardizing the rich history and tradition of our business.”