Fashion Giants Clash: US Government Moves to Halt Coach and Michael Kors Merger

In a surprising turn of events, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has taken a bold stance against the proposed $8.5 billion merger between Tapestry, the parent company of Coach, and Capri Holdings, the owner of Michael Kors. The FTC argues that the merger would obliterate the direct competition between these two luxury handbag giants, resulting in potential adverse effects for consumers and employees alike.

At the heart of the FTC’s contention lies the concern that the merger could lead to a reduction in wages and benefits for the combined company’s workforce of approximately 33,000 employees worldwide. By eliminating the head-to-head competition between Tapestry and Capri, the FTC fears that consumers would lose out on the benefits of competitive pricing, discounts, and innovative designs.

Tapestry’s CEO, Joanne Crevoiserat, staunchly defends her company’s position, emphasizing the competitive nature of the talent market beyond just the fashion industry. However, antitrust experts argue that the luxury fashion landscape is already diverse and competitive, with new brands emerging each year to challenge established players.

The FTC’s challenge to the merger represents a departure from traditional antitrust strategies, as it focuses on potential adverse impacts on labor conditions and wages. This tactic aligns with the revised federal merger guidelines issued in December, signaling a new frontier in antitrust enforcement.

Despite receiving regulatory clearance from the European Union and Japan, Capri Holdings vehemently opposes the FTC’s decision, citing market realities that it believes the government overlooks. Investors remain skeptical about the merger’s fate, with Tapestry’s stock price trading well below the offered acquisition price.

As the legal battle unfolds, the outcome remains uncertain. While the merger deadline looms, analysts express varying opinions on the potential harm to consumers in a combined entity, underscoring the complexity of the luxury fashion market dynamics.

The clash between these fashion behemoths and the U.S. government underscores the high stakes involved in consolidating power within the luxury industry. As the legal saga continues, all eyes are on the courtroom, where the fate of this monumental merger hangs in the balance.

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