Revlon Files Bankruptcy

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Revlon was founded in 1932 by the Revson brothers and their chemist, Charles Lachman (that is the L in Revlon) during the height of the great depression. Their signature product was nail polish. Lachman’s brilliancy was using a pigment instead of a dye and they invented nail enamel. It became an instant success and later on they expanded to lipstick. At one point, Revlon was the #2 makeup brand in the world. After the war, they bought a German implement company that was seized by the government and that is how they got into the implement business.

Then 1985 came and the beginning of the end of Revlon began. That is when Ron Perelman bought the company and saddled with with $2.7B in debt. Then over the years he made some poor acquisitions. He paid $660M for the Colomer Group which included the American Crew and Creative Nail Design brands. Then he paid $870M for Elizabeth Arden in 2016. What is interesting about these acquisitions: Revlon bought Jean Nate in 1935 (remember that brand, it was hot for so many years). From its roots, Perelman thought it best to expand its nail polish and fragrance offerings and always used debt.

Fast forward to now and guess what? Revlon blames its conditions on supply chain, inflation, the war, and other factors. But the bottom line is that is still has more than $3B in debt, slightly more than in 1985. Debt killed the company and Perelman killed a company 90 years old. Now the company is nearly worthless valued a little over $100M. How much do you think Colomer Group and Arden are worth now?

Reliance Industries, a huge energy outfit in India wants to get into the beauty game and is thinking about buying Revlon. Revlon stock zoomed up on the news. But once Reliance does its due diligence and finds out what the brands are really worth, they would be best to walk away. Sure the brands are a steal at these prices but when the last time anyone bought a bottle of Revlon nail polish?

On a side note, I wonder how KKR is doing with OPI. With inflation at 8.5% and supply chain issues still going on, why is OPI discounting its core offering 25%? And just last Friday, SBH (Sally) got downgraded because its low income consumers will cut back on purchasing and the analyst specifically mentioned the manicure category. The stock sunk to just over $11 a share.

Meanwhile, the entire nail category accounts for less than 2% of overall beauty sales. It was always a niche category and always will be. Those that try to make it anything else always get stung in the end.