Sara Blakely is the founder of Spanx. (Photographer credit is Paul Thatcher)
The company that transformed women’s shapewear is being acquired in what will be its first investment by an outsider.
Investment firm Blackstone Inc. has agreed to buy a majority stake in Spanx — founded with $5,000 by Sara Blakely in 2000 — in a deal that values the company at $1.2 billion. Under the terms of the agreement, Blakely will maintain a significant equity stake in the business and, along with Spanx’s existing senior management team, continue to oversee daily operations.
The transaction was led by an all-female Blackstone investment team. The companies intend to create an all-female Spanx board of directors, with Blakey as executive chairwoman.
“Sara is an iconic businesswoman who bootstrapped Spanx into not only a category creator and household name, but also a symbol of authenticity, confidence-building and female empowerment,” said Ann Chung, global head of consumer for Blackstone Growth. “We’re honored that Sara and her team have placed their trust in Blackstone as their partner of choice to further accelerate Spanx’s digital transformation and growth, and look forward to what the business will achieve with our full set of resources behind it. On a personal level, I am deeply proud to have led an all-female Blackstone investment team in this partnership with Sara and her accomplished female senior management team.”
Blakely founded Spanx when she took $5,000 in savings and set out to take on the male-dominated shapewear and undergarment industry. Blakely, who was selling fax machines door to door at the time, wrote her own patent and invented the first Spanx undergarment in her apartment.
Without ever taking any outside investment, she turned the brand into a global phenomenon. Through her personal foundation, Blakely has given millions of dollars to help elevate other women and in 2013 she signed the Giving Pledge, promising to donate half her wealth to philanthropy.
“This is a really important moment in time for female entrepreneurs,” Blakely said. “I started this company with no business experience and very little money, but I cared the most about the customer, and that gave me the courage to launch the company. At Spanx, we have always put the customer at the center of what we do. I am as excited today for the future of Spanx as I was when I started it 21 years ago.”
Blakely has long resisted selling or taking her company public. But Spanx has come under increased pressure in recent years, particularly from Kim Kardashian’s Skims shapewear line.