Swimwear chain to join Fla. rival

Water Water Everywhere of Owings Mills accepts deal with Everything But Water

August 19, 2006|By LAURA SMITHERMAN | LAURA SMITHERMAN,SUN REPORTER

Water Water Everywhere, an Owings Mills-based retailer of women's swimwear and accessories that has grown to 20 locations across the country from one store in 1990, has agreed to be acquired by Bear Growth Capital Partners and merge with a larger rival based in Orlando, Fla.

Bear Growth Capital Partners, part of the private equity arm of investment banker Bear Stearns Cos., announced this week that it entered into a letter of intent to acquire Water Water Everywhere. Once the deal is closed later this year, the retailer would be merged with Everything But Water LLC, which is owned by Bear Growth Capital. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

"It makes natural sense to combine two successful bathing suit chains in one," said Mark Millman of Millman Search Group, an executive search firm and retail consultant in Owings Mills. "It gives them more buying power, more clout in the industry and a better ability to make good real estate deals, and I'm sure there will be some savings when they combine operations."

Everything But Water has 34 stores in 14 states and Puerto Rico. Water Water Everywhere has stores in 11 states, including four in Maryland.

"It's an easy fit," Andy Cohen, president and owner of Water Water Everywhere, said yesterday. "We don't overlap in any market. We have similar strategies and processes. Our product mixes are similar, and our customer service philosophy and marketing strategies are similar."

Cohen said he would repurchase a stake in the combined company, which would retain Everything But Water's name and have its headquarters in Orlando. Cohen, whose company employs about 150 people, said some employees at the main office would move with the company to Orlando and that the structure of any local corporate presence has not been determined.

laura.smitherman@baltsun.com

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