Press Clips: A license to sell

April 19, 2002

Steven Seidman is making a second career at rolling in Mudd.

Thatıs Mudd, as in Mudd jeans, the brand popular with teen-age girls. But, thanks to Seidman, Mudd has become more than just a jeans company.

The companyıs psychedelic logosıevocative of hippies and Woodstockınow adorn an array of Mudd merchandise: swimwear, school supplies, glasses, watches, footwear, towels and sleepwear. A girl can be outfitted and use Mudd products from morning ıtil night, Seidman said.

Over the past five years, Seidman has helped transform Mudd from a $28-million-a-year jeans company to a portfolio of products with $250 million to $300 million in revenues a year.

Seidmanıs Ingroup Licensing, based in New City, is the exclusive licensing agent for Mudd. The company blends the disciplines of marketing, merchandising, advertising and promotion to extend fashion brands beyond just clothing as a way to increase a companyıs profits. Dick Gilbert, president of Mudd LLC, said Seidman took Mudd from a company ıwith jeans on a rackı to a national brand whose products now warrant their own sections in department stores.

At Deb in the Palisades Center, Mudd jeans are the most popular brand, said Assistant Manager Lisette Reyes. In a display of black handbags, Muddıs hot pink, powder blue and glitter bags stand out. ıThe colors would attract people to look this way,ı Reyes said.

In the 34 years heıs been in the jeans and clothing trade, Gilbert said Seidman has taken the company to heights beyond his wildest imagination. Seidman knows instinctively which products will translate well, Gilbert said.

ıHe had a vision that I just kind of laughed at in the beginning,ı Gilbert said. ıHeıs got a tremendous sense of whoıs capable of doing the right thing.ı

License! magazine has named Ingroup as among its ıTop 100 to Watchı and Seidman has been listed as one of the most influential deal-makers in the $97 billion licensing industry.

From the early to mid-ı90s, the licensing trade had its biggest growth spurt. It has since slowed as the field reached a point where demand equaled supply, said Charles Riotto, president of the International Licensing Industry Merchandisersı Association. Images, slogans and logos from sports, entertainment, fashion and corporations are popularly licensed to appear on everything from shirts to lunch boxes. But how did 52-year-old Seidman know what products would prove popular with 15-year-old girls?

For starters, he spent 20 years in the marketing and sales industries, including stints as an executive for Guess Inc., BUM Equipment, Jordache Jean Company and Murjani Company, the company responsible for making Gloria Vanderbilt jeans a fashion phenomenon. Seidman is out in the malls constantly looking at what young people are buying. ıWe have to be able to hear and see things before anybody else,ı he said.

In the case of Mudd, Seidman said he was drawn to its 1960s, retro style. Low-rise jeans and bell-bottoms were coming into vogue. Seidman said he views potential licensors with a critical eye. The company has to be creating a buzz. ıThe brand has to allow itself to take on a life of its own,ı he said.

Seidman wonıt introduce a line of licensed products unless he believes it has the potential to generate $50 million to $100 million in sales in two to three years. He said heıs looking for brands with longevityınot just a flash in the pan. ıTo just add $10 million in new business is not our plan,ı he said.

Other Seidman clients include Plugg, a company catering to teen-age boys that will introduce new products in time for this fallıs back-to-school season. Seidman also has exclusive licensing rights to Ben Sherman, the fourth largest apparel company in Europe that will soon introduce its line of menıs and womenıs clothing to America.

Seidman does not take a retainer up front, so he does not see any money until and unless the licensed products become successful. His fortunes are tied to a percentage of net sales of the licensed products. He declined to discuss Ingroupıs revenues in detail but said the private company is ısignificantly profitable.ı

While building up his own business, Seidman also faced personal challenges. Concerned about blood in his urine, Seidman learned 14 years ago, after repeated tests and doctorsı visits, that he had a malignant tumor on his right kidney. The kidney was removed. Then in 1998, he learned the cancer had spread to his bladder. Treated for his second bout of cancer, Seidman continues to be monitored medically but shows no signs of slowing down.

He splits his workdays between offices in New City and New York City. He was in China recently to cement a Mudd distribution deal for all of the Far East. A confessed ıcontrol freakı who keeps his hand in all facets of licensing decisions, Seidman talks animatedly about the youth market.

ıYoung people, I like to say theyıre recession-proof. Today, business happens on the young side,ı he said. ıOur real success and recognition comes from the consumer. We couldnıt be in a more exciting business.ı

Send e-mail to Christopher Mele

Originally published on The Journal News web site.