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Takeaway: Nike should never have bought Cole Haan and Umbro, but with a net positive swing of $1bn in FCF, it is making the best of its mistakes.

We’re surprised to see that Apax Partners emerged as the victor for buying Cole Haan at a price of $570mm from Nike, as they outmaneuvered TPG – which counts former Cole Haan CEo Matt Rubel as its CEO. No one is more qualified to offer insight into that business than Rubel given that he is the one who staged its turnaround before he left Cole Haan for Payless in 2005.

This is a complex sale, as the biggest issue in our opinion is the extent to which Cole Haan can still use Nike technology such as Air and Lunar in the product after Nike lets the brand go. There has to be some transitional agreement, but nothing will be in perpetuity. Without Nike, Cole Haan has a challenge on its hands. Rubel knows this, and therefore was likely against bidding up against what ended up being a rather rich price for Cole Haan.

The bottom line is that combined with Umbro, Nike is getting $795mm on a combined basis for two brands that are losing money. That is precisely $1 for every dollar in revenue generated by the brands last year. In the end, Nike is getting $795mm in cash, plus eliminatig a $43mm operating loss. If we take the proceeds, add back the operating loss, and then $160mm in working capital avoidance, we’re looking at a net positive swing in cash flow right around $1bn. That’s about 10mm shares Nike can repurchase, or 2.3% earnings accretion at current levels.

Nike would have been better off to never have bought these businesses in the first place. But it definitely made the most of unwinding the mistakes.