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What's the Next Orphan Brand as Marketers Look to Trim?

Low Rates, Loosening Credit Could Mean Big Changes for 'Misfits' in Global Portfolio. Here Are Five to Watch

By Published on .

A correction has been made in this story. See below for details.

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Some experts see Dean Metropoulos' $250 million purchase of Pabst Brewing as a sign of increased interest in "orphan" brands, once iconic marks that, while faded, still retain a glimmer of brand equity that some buyers think can be rekindled with the right strategy.

Mr. Metropoulos is a master of the form, having made a fortune reviving the likes of Bumble Bee tuna and Vlasic pickles. In Pabst -- and siblings Lone Star, Colt 45 and Old Style -- he gets a brand that, while a fraction of its former scale, has been growing in recent years as its embraced by hipsters (and recession-pinched drinkers looking for a cheaper brew).

It's not likely to be the last such deal: Low interest rates and loosening credit terms have made life easier for heavily leveraged private-equity firms, at the same time that many global marketers are moving to rationalize their brand portfolios by eliminating misfits.

The list of brands that could soon change hands is long. Combe, which markets Just for Men, is said to be shopping a list that includes Vagisil, Aqua Velva and Odor Eaters. Prestige Brands is looking to sell its Cutex brand.

Here's a look at five iconic brands we think could be next on the block.

Armor All/STP

Why it might be sold:
For one thing, Clorox Chairman-CEO Don Knauss says so. "As we have acknowledged in the past, our auto-care business, made up of the Armor All and STP brands, does not really participate in categories that fit as closely with the key consumer mega trends we've been focused on for the last three years such as health and wellness and sustainability."
Why anyone would want it:
Clorox has reportedly received inquiries about the brands, which account for about $300 million in sales and have been growing market share. Mr. Knauss said the company will hang on to the brands if it can't find a rich-enough offer.
What it could fetch:
$800 million

Maxwell House

Why it might be sold:

It's a North American-only brand without global expansion prospects at a marketer -- Kraft Foods -- that looks at everything globally. Plus, Kraft may need to divest more assets to pay off the hefty debt load from its pricey Cadbury acquisition.
Why anyone would want it:
Well, Procter & Gamble found a taker for rival Folgers -- J.M. Smucker Co. -- as recently as 2008. And Starbucks' recent Via launch suggests some see potential in the instant-coffee category. Kraft has been sprucing up packaging and marketing, which could make the brand more appealing to would-be buyers.
What it could fetch:
Experts estimate the brand would fetch roughly 70% of what P&G got for Folgers, about $2.3 billion.


Why it might be sold:
Well, it's already on the block. "Miramax is a classic orphan brand," notes investment banker Lloyd Greif. "Disney wants big-ticket family fare, and it's an art house."
Why anyone would want it:
The studio that produced such critically-acclaimed fare as "The Queen" and "No Country for Old Men" carries plenty of prestige and financial upside for a company looking for smaller-scale hits.
What it could fetch:
Early reports had Disney seeking as much as $800 million, but Mr. Greif estimates that the final price tag "will have a five in front of it."


Why it might be sold:
After selling Folgers, Jif, Crisco and Sunny Delight in recent years, Procter & Gamble is basically out of the food business. The 40-year-old canned-crisps brand is its last remaining entry in the category.
Why anyone would want it:
Can you eat just one? Despite its waning interest in the category, P&G has continued to invest in new flavors, brand extensions and marketing campaigns. Since PepsiCo's Frito-Lay dominates the salty-snacks aisle, the brand might have some appeal to competitors such as Kraft or Sara Lee.
What it could fetch:
$1.5 billion to $2 billion.

Rolling Rock

Why it might be sold:
Purchased by Anheuser-Busch shortly before the St. Louis brewer was acquired by InBev, the new parent has cut most of its marketing budget and already explored a sale as it seeks to pay down a heavy debt load. A-B InBev's U.S. focus is primarily on reviving the Budweiser brand family and similarly priced Rolling Rock isn't likely to get the focus it needs for a revival until that happens.
Why anyone would want it:
If private-equity buyers were willing to roll the dice on Genesee, as KPS Capital Partners did just last year, someone is bound to consider the former pride of Latrobe, Pa. worth a shot, particularly at a time when domestic "heritage" brews Pabst and Yuengling are among the few growing U.S. beer brands.
What it could fetch:
Rolling Rock's sales have plummeted since A-B paid $82 million for it, so it's safe to assume its price tag has, too.

~ ~ ~
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Prestige Brands is putting most of its lineup on the sale block. The company is only actively shopping it Cutex brand.

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