Global private equity firm Blackstone (NYSE:BX), through its Blackstone Tactical Opportunities unit, has acquired jewelry importer and direct-sales company Diamonds Direct. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
The global diamond market is currently experiencing a massive slump amid a rampant oversupply, according to industry sources. Prices have been steadily declining for five years, and this year has already seen major diamond producers report poor results. Recently, mining company Anglo American PLC (LON:AAL), which owns famed diamond company De Beers, said it cut its diamond production by 27% in response to lower prices. Similarly, Rio Tinto PLC (LON:RIO) also said it has cut diamond production.
Headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina. Diamonds Direct was founded 30 years ago in Israel by a group of diamantaires. In 1995, the first Diamonds Direct opened in Charlotte, eliminating the middleman and selling diamonds directly to the end customer from the manufacturing facility in Israel. Today, Diamonds Direct is one of America’s largest and most successful independent jewelry companies with seven locations in the U.S. Each Diamonds Direct offers loose and mounted diamonds, a multitude of engagement ring mountings by America’s top designers, diamond and gemstone fashion jewelry, wedding bands, pearls and much more.
“This is a very exciting day for Diamonds Direct,” said its CEO Itay Berger. “Diamonds Direct’s partnership with Blackstone will enable us to continue to deliver unparalleled service and unbeatable prices. We are thrilled to begin a new chapter for our employees and customers with Blackstone as we enter a new phase of growth.”
“Blackstone is extremely excited to partner with Itay and the existing management team to accelerate the Company’s growth,” said Jasvinder Khaira, Managing Director of Blackstone Tactical Opportunities. “Providing capital to entrepreneurs is a hallmark of Blackstone’s growth investments and we look forward to working with the Diamonds Direct team on their continued success and growth.”
Itay Berger, who was a minority shareholder of Diamond Direct, first had a short professional career as a soccer player on the Israeli National Team for two years playing a midfield position. He then served in the Israel Defense Force for three years where he was in the Air Force. After the military, Berger attend Law School in Israel and began his professional career working for one of the biggest law firms in Israel, specializing in commercial and real estate law. After two years of practicing law, Berger accepted a family offer to enter the diamond industry. This is when he began working for Diamonds Direct’s parent company, headquartered in Israel. After studying and learning the diamond trade, Berger was asked to go to Charlotte, NC to serve as Vice President of Diamonds Direct’s first retail store, Diamonds Direct Southpark in Charlotte, NC. Berger developed the Charlotte store and set his sights on opening new locations across the US. Diamonds Direct has been honored as one of the top 20 independent jewelers in the US, due in large part to Berger’s dedication to the business. Berger has since opened four more locations- Raleigh, NC, Birmingham, AL, Richmond, VA and Austin, TX, and is in the process of developing several others.
Diamonds Direct is a leading independent jewelry retailer in the U.S., with a long and well-established history in diamond sales and manufacturing. In the last seven years, the company has grown from one location in Charlotte to a multi-channel retailer with seven locations across the United States complimented by an online ecommerce storefront. Diamonds Direct’s retail locations are located in Charlotte, Raleigh, NC, Birmingham, AL, Richmond, VA, Austin, TX, with new locations opening in Oklahoma City, OK, and Charleston, SC, in early December.
“The tactic that has distinguished Diamonds Direct since the company opened its Charlotte store in 1995 is straightforward: Present clients with a vast array of competitively priced diamonds—sourced directly from India, Israel, and Belgium, as its name implies—backed by superior customer service befitting a destination store, and they will come,” according to trade magazine JCK.
Diamonds Direct was originally founded by its chairman Alon Arabov, a diamond manufacturer based in Tel Aviv, Israel, who was the majority shareholder until recently. Last month, Mr. Arabov and several other diamantaires were indicted in Israel for tax evasion. While news accounts did not specify charges, the indictments were reportedly related to the so-called “underground bank” that operated inside the Israeli Diamond Exchange.
The transaction closed in early November. Diamonds Direct was advised by James McElroy & Diehl, P.A. and Pearl Cohen Zedek Latzer Baratz. Blackstone was advised by Wells Fargo Securities LLC and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP.
Blackstone is one of the world’s leading investment firms, with over $330 billion in global assets under management, focused on private equity, real estate, public debt and equity, non-investment grade credit, real assets and secondary funds.