Drunk Elephant’s Tiffany Masterson Open to a Buyer But Says No Deal Imminent

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Inside Drunk Elephant’s “House of Drunk” pop-up in London | Source: Courtesy

By Bloomberg June 11, 2019 16:00

HOUSTON, United States – US skincare brand Drunk Elephant is open to a suitor.

The start-up with a growing cult following has already hired bankers to represent it in a potential sale, but isn’t close to finalising any deals, said Tiffany Masterson, the brand’s founder and chief creative officer.

“If there are companies that want to buy Drunk Elephant, we’re open to discussion,” she said on the sidelines of the company’s pop-up shop opening in New York. “We’re just looking at what this looks like, seeing what this might look like.”

Masterson, whose lines promise nontoxic ingredients, downplayed a report in the Sunday Telegraph last month that consumer-goods giant Unilever NV was considering a $1 billion offer.

“I haven’t even commented on that because that was not a reality thing,” she said, noting that she was “flattered” by the report but that it wasn’t accurate. “We’re not there yet with anybody. We don’t have an indication of who might want to buy the brand if we sell it.”

Still, there could be takers among big names in the industry. The world’s largest cosmetics companies have been rapidly acquiring upstart brands in recent years as they search for the next big hit, often picking labels that attract younger, trendier shoppers. Estée Lauder Cos. has acquired Becca, Rodin, , Glamglow and Too Faced while L’Oréal SA bought CeraVe, Atelier Cologne and It Cosmetics. Earlier this year, Unilever added Garancia to its lineup, and on Monday, it agreed to buy skincare brand Tatcha, which makes creams based on a foundation of green tea, rice and algae.

“For me, selling the brand one day, it would have to be to a very special partner who lets me be myself and lets me have autonomy,” Masterson said, adding that finding a buyer is a more likely path than going public. “Who knows if that’s out there. I hope it is. I hope we’ll find out soon.”

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier that the brand had hired bankers to explore a sale. Unilever declined to comment.

Drunk Elephant, which doesn’t operate stores but is sold in Sephora, launched on Monday its first US pop-up shop, House of Drunk in Manhattan’s tony Soho neighbourhood. The 1,300-square-foot space features an “Acid Trip theme,” a reference to the acids like lactic and citric used in some of its products. Masterson said she was pleased with the pop-up, but the brand’s still not planning any longer-term brick-and-mortar locations.

“We don’t have any plans to do that. It’s really fun this way,” she said. Still, “never say never.”

By Alexis Benveniste; editors: Anne Riley Moffat and Lisa Wolfson.