A private consortium of Fijian and Timor-Leste investors has bought troubled sportswear manufacturer BLK from receivers McGrathNicol.

The consortium, lead by Timor-Leste oil and energy company Esperança Timor Oan (ETO), acquired BLK from its parent company World Rugby Specialists for an undisclosed sum.

BLK entered receivership in November last year, just days after signing a sponsorship deal with Australian Football League team St Kilda. Prior to 2011, the company was known as KooGa.

At the time, the company had contracts with five other AFL clubs, as well as contracts with a number of other prominent sporting clubs, including the Silver Ferns netball team and rugby league team, the Gold Coast Titans.

In a statement released today, the receivers revealed BLK will maintain its partnerships with a number of its previously sponsored clubs. Esperança Timor Oan executive director Nilton Gusmão dos Santos said the BLK purchase would allow ETO to move beyond the energy sector, with the BLK brands to be established under a new company called BLK International Pty Ltd.

Esperança Timor Oan will also keep BLK’s executive team and senior management on board, including presiding chief executive Tyson Brant. In a statement, Brant said the company will continue under the new ownership.

“BLK International expects to maintain a high level of customer service and market leading innovation and intends to better deliver product and experience for BLK’s loyal customers,” Brant said.

The business has managed to maintain high-profile partnerships with teams such as the Silver Ferns and A-League team the Newcastle Jets. It will also continue supplying its Australian and South African Super Rugby clubs, UK’s Saracens and Ospreys rugby clubs, Ireland’s Connacht Rugby, Stade Toulousain in France, Ricoh Black Rams in Japan and Canterbury in New Zealand.

No contracts with AFL or NFL teams have been maintained, although Brant hopes the business will return to its former glory in time.

“Despite the clubs terminating their arrangements with BLK, BLK International is confident that it will be able to replace that lost business over the medium term once it has rebuilt confidence in the brand,” Brant said.

In November, retail expert at Retail Doctor Group Brian Walker told SmartCompany contract-based business models can be vulnerable to competition.

“With the number of exclusive contracts it held, it seems like a fairly fragile business model. It would have likely seen heavy competitor from main brands like Adidas over time,” Walker says.

“It seems like the pipeline wasn’t particularly wide, and I’m not sure how robust the model was in the first place.”

By Dominic Powell.

First published on Smart Company, 23 January 2017

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