NEW YORK — Marvin Traub Associates has joined forces with Bruce H. Ross and John D. Goodman to establish Traub Celebrity Group, a business development and advisory firm dedicated to working with celebrities and athletes to guide and develop global branded opportunities.
The new division will be led by Ross and Goodman as co-managing directors.
Ross has spearheaded the development of new businesses for such celebrities as Tony Bennett, Lauren Conrad, Jordin Sparks and Dara Torres, while Goodman is credited with creating the Kardashian Kollection at Sears; Sofía Vergara and Dream Out Loud by Selena Gomez for Kmart, and Sandra by Sandra Lee for Sears and Kmart.
Mortimer Singer, chief executive officer of Traub, explained that celebrities doing business in the retail space is a phenomenon that has grown in importance in the branding arena.
“Today, with social media and other platforms, celebrity power is unleashed in a way that’s never been seen before because they’ve become media outlets of their own,” said Singer. Celebrities today don’t just want to do licensing deals, but they want to create companies which may, or may not, bear their name. “They want to get into the consumer branded business and use their celebrity as a marketing engine,” he said.
For example, 50 Cent owns 5 percent of Vitamin Water; Jessica Alba started Honest Co., and Kate Hudson cofounded Fabletics, an activewear firm. While those examples are unrelated to his firm, Singer noted one of his partners helped Paul Newman do a lemonade deal when Newman was building his charity-based branded foods enterprise. Last year, Traub Associates did a deal with burlesque star Dita Von Teese for a lingerie collection for Bloomingdale’s and a diffusion line, Von Follies by Dita Von Teese, for the midmarket. The firm is now working with five international stars, but Singer said it was too soon to disclose their identities.
Ross founded Celebrity Fashion Group in 2009 and was earlier president of JH Collectibles, the sportswear company, where he had a 15-year tenure. He also established Imagemark, a promotional products and marketing solutions business, which worked with global companies such as Citibank, Fox Sports and Manpower to develop branded apparel and merchandise. He also served as a consultant for the Lauren Conrad Collection, where he developed a licensing agreement with Kohl’s.
Ross told WWD that when he left Imagemark in 2007, a friend contacted him about Lauren Conrad. “I flew out to Los Angeles to meet the team and she [Lauren] was in a factory and was actually pinning garments” — a good sign, said Ross. “So many celebrity deals don’t work out because the celebrity is in it for a paycheck… The most important thing to any deal is product.”
Goodman teamed up with Ross in Celebrity Fashion Group last October. Earlier, Goodman was ceo of The Wet Seal, Inc. for a year and a half and resigned that post last August. Before that, he was executive vice president of apparel and home at Sears Holding Corp., and was ceo of Charlotte Russe Holding. He has also been ceo and president of Mervyn’s and president of Dockers Brand. Goodman spent 10 years at Gap, Inc., where he developed and launched Gap, Inc.’s Banana Republic and Old Navy outlet concepts.
Goodman described the new celebrity group as a “one-stop shop for representing global celebrities.” Ross said the company will be working with talent agencies, managers and management companies, as well as manufacturers looking to expand their business by developing new product lines, and retailers and department stores looking to develop exclusive celebrity product offerings.
The celebrity field is dominated by firms such as Creative Artists Agency and William Morris Endeavor, which have divisions that handle celebrity endorsements. CAA, for example, has done deals with George Clooney and Omega watches; Penélope Cruz and Agent Provocateur; Jennifer Lawrence and Dior; Eva Mendes and Circa Cosmetics and a clothing line for New York & Co., and Carrie Underwood and Dick’s Sporting Goods for an activewear line called Calia by Carrie Underwood. Some of WME’s deals include Robert Pattinson and Dior; Emma Stone and Revlon, and Serena Williams and Nike.
Of the partnership with Traub Associates, Ross said, “We have global access to retailers and tremendous opportunities….not only here in the U.S. but also in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and throughout Latin America.” According to Singer, their strategy will be to operate and build a celebrity’s business that will have longevity. Celebrities are “increasingly wanting to invest in their own businesses, as opposed to doing something risk-free,” he said. The new firm intends to help celebrities develop a business plan, figure out their positioning and marketing, maintain and manage the business, and build the infrastructure needed to support those brands.
“My partners, John and Bruce, have done a huge amount in this space, whether they work with the agents, the managers or the celebrities. It was time for us to take it more seriously. We’ve always worked with celebrities but it needed a dedicated division,” said Singer.