21 Nov Singapore’s Star 360 Holdings Creates a Global Footprint
Andy Chaw was in the car park of a Los Angeles beach hotel, heading to dinner in May of last year, when he got a game-changing phone call from Zurich. It was a former manager at Swiss shoe brand MBT. The footwear pioneer’s parent had filed for bankruptcy, he said, urging Chaw to save the company. It was a tough decision for the Singaporean shoe distributor and retailer–it would double the size of his business overnight. But he was ready with his answer the next day.
The next two months were a blur of intercontinental negotiations. Ultimately Chaw bought the parent, Masai Group International, and its iconic brand–a household name in Europe–at a fire-sale price. Recent owners had sunk hundreds of millions into the beleaguered outfit, but he was able to buy it without taking on any of its more than $200 million in debt.
Within six months he had it back in the black by cutting costs and dramatically boosting sales in Asia. And the deal gave him shelf space in Europe and North America, transforming his Singapore-based group, Star 360 Holdings, into a global player. It now operates in 17 countries, with Australia and the U.K. coming online by next month.
Star 360 supplies 20 powerhouse brands–including Asics, Nike and Onitsuka Tiger, as well as MBT–to 6,700 points of sale. It also owns and operates 100 retail stores around Asia, and Chaw has his own comfort footwear brand, Ergo-Lab, while holding two patents for shoe design.
With the region’s shoe consumption racing ahead, Chaw expects revenue for the year ending in March to exceed $130 million, up 60% in 12 months, with a net profit of $20 million; more than half of the top line will come from MBT sales. Owning 100% of Star 360, Chaw boasts a $300 million net worth, FORBES ASIA estimates.
Chaw, 46, started selling MBT shoes in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong four years ago. In 2011 his MBT sales grew 300% despite the brand’s slumping sales elsewhere, and he was named Masai’s top distributor. “They actually used us as a case study to show how the brand could be managed and marketed,” he says.