“Even if I have to go and live in a very small place in Ireland, I will”
Jessica Simpson was suffering from severe bronchitis and was on a ventilator, even though she was 34 weeks pregnant with her third child when she and her mother, Tina, decided to launch a take-over bid.
It was the start of a two-year battle for control of Simpson’s eponymous brand – the rare celebrity line to exceed $ 1 billion in sales.
And Simpson says their determination meant they were even considering moving to Ireland: “We will borrow against our homes. Even if I have to move to a very small place in Ireland, I will.
When Simpson launched the line in 2005, she was an unlikely clothing mogul. The gospel singer daughter of a Baptist pastor, she first appeared on the pop music scene in the 1990s, a new breed of sexy blonde teens alongside Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. While she has the vocal chops, it was the 2003 hit MTV show Newlyweds, a voyeuristic adventure through the 23-year-old’s new marriage to her husband, Nick Lachey, that propelled her. in the firmament of pop culture. . Those who rejected her as just a foolish artist became converts. Her viral mess, outspoken charm, and sexy Texan flair drew an Instagram style years before the social platform even existed.
Almost two decades later, Simpson had reached the stage of stardom where she was best known for being famous.
After a divorce, she married former NFL player Eric Johnson, but over the years she had developed an addiction to alcohol. In 2017, the mother of two young children carried a cup of glittery vodka and flavored Perrier everywhere, which she sipped in the morning before leaving school.
After a drunken appearance by Ellen, followed by a power outage at a family Halloween party, she finally got professional help. In 2019, she was sober and had millions of Instagram followers, but hadn’t recorded an album in almost a decade.
Simpson’s business had been one of the few constants. In 2005, she launched a clothing brand for Central America. Teens and their moms who wanted to dress like Jessica Simpson suddenly could afford to. Rather than creating a company that actually made the products, she gave her name to the top manufacturers, who then designed and manufactured the products in the Jessica Simpson collection, including clothing, perfumes, and handbags. Tina, who had been largely a stage mom, ran the business, with the help of a shoe business genius who oversaw the licensing and took a stake in the business in 2005.
The formula not only worked, it survived the fashion lines launched by many other celebrities – Mandy Moore, David Hasselhoff, even stylist Sarah Jessica Parker.
Eventually the brand retailed for $ 1 billion, with Simpson appearing on the cover of the New York magazine as “The $ 1 Billion Girl,” surprising everyone that the seemingly not-too-bright singer was in fact female. very intelligent businesswoman.
“To put that number into context,” the article read, “that means Jessica Simpson has roughly the same sales volume as Michael Kors.”
Patience, passion, perseverance, prayer, throwing curved balls and Hail Marys while remaining humbled by grace have given me back my power and my name. If this girl with a dream could do it, I know anyone can! Thank you @BW for the honor of an epic cover that I will frame! pic.twitter.com/WFAJauxHDC
– Jessica Simpson (@JessicaSimpson) January 5, 2022
But soon after her brand’s rise to public acclaim, a slow ending began in boardrooms, on results calls, and on the P&L sheets. In 2015, after the Simpsons’ business partner died from cancer, they struck a deal with a different kind of business with a charismatic young CEO who intended to expand the line into one. “$ 2-3 billion transaction,” as Wear Daily reported at the time. But the company, Sequential Brands Group Inc. – more of a licensed financial intermediary than a creative partner – was soon outdated. By 2019, it had become clear to The Simpsons that Sequential was in fact in the throes of serious financial trouble and had no plans to expand its business. They watched their empire slowly die.
Simpson knew her clients, but says Sequential executives weren’t listening, brushing off her suggestions and calling her “irrelevant” – which went to the heart of her insecurities.
“I think they wanted to blame me,” she said. “They made a lot of excuses, and I was the excuse because I hadn’t released a movie.”
In this hospital bed, Simpson had finally had enough.
“My name was on it,” Simpson says of his business. “I never stray from my name.”
So Simpson asked Tina and another Collection executive to approach Sequential about buying the brand. It would require two years of negotiations with the company, which eventually filed for bankruptcy and was forced to sell everything it owned for parts.
Eventually, The Simpsons realized “We have to redeem this brand.”
Then the Covid-19 struck.
Sequential filed for bankruptcy in August 2021 and began selling its brands. In November, a bankruptcy judge approved the Simpsons’ $ 65 million offer for the controlling stake in Sequential, largely funded by the Simpsons themselves with two additional lenders.
Jessica is now 41 years old; Tina turns 62 this month. They plan to retain all of its 20-plus licensees in over 30 categories and are expanding in all areas Sequential has ever done, and more: face rollers, yoga mats, pet accessories. pet, which Jessica’s 9-year-old daughter helps conceive. . They are also considering starting their own licensing company, applying the lessons learned from the sequential years.