Buckhead-based Spanx sells to investment firm in deal that may make rags-to-riches founder a billionaire again

Spanx, the Buckhead-based women’s clothing brand, will sell a majority stake to investment firm Blackstone in a deal that may restore founder and local resident Sara Blakely to billionaire status.

Blakely will retain a stake in the business and become executive chairwoman, according to an Oct. 20 Blackstone press release announcing the deal. And they will create an all-women board of directors, aligning with Blakely’s focus on female empowerment.

“I received a sign from the universe 21 years ago to start the company and I received another sign that it was the right time to take in a partner and specifically Blackstone,” said Blakely in a post on her personal Instagram account. “After meeting with the all-female deal team, I knew they were the right partners to grow our mission and scale our purpose. Now together with Blackstone, we will have even more opportunity to further our mission of making the world a better place… one butt at a time!”

“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, the “global head of consumer” for the firm’s Blackstone Growth division. “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.”

In a now famous, literal rags-to-riches tale, Blakely founded Spanx in 2000 by creating and marketing a type of shapewear that was essentially footless pantyhose. The product was unique in a market that was dominated by male-run garment companies. From $5,000 in her own savings, she grew the operation to international status as a lifestyle brand and became a self-made billionaire in the process as estimated by the business magazine Forbes in its well-publicized annual lists. The company has long been headquartered at the mixed-use complex now known as the Buckhead Village District at Peachtree and Pharr roads.

Spanx’s fortunes have fallen somewhat in recent years with competition and the COVID-19 pandemic, with Forbes recently estimating its value around $540 million and dropping Blakely from the billionaires list. “People have asked me for 20 years, ‘When will you sell Spanx?’ And for 20 years I would say… ‘I’ll just know,'” said Blakely, who had maintained the company’s self-funding, in her Instagram post. “Well, that day is today.”

The terms of the sale were not disclosed, but Blackstone said its purchase of the majority stake is based on a valuation of $1.2 billion. Blakely will be “maintaining a significant equity stake in the business,” the press release said.

Blakely also continues to run her personal foundation, whose donations focus “on charities that empower underserved women and girls,” according to its website.

Blackstone is a New York City-based asset management and investment firm whose divisions own or control a wide variety of businesses and real estate, ranging from a Las Vegas casino to the genealogy website Ancestry.com.