The Jatania brothers, one of Britain's richest Asian families, yesterday bought Unilever's US hair care brands Finesse and Aqua Net for around £80m, their first major move into the North American market.
The four Jatania brothers, who originally hail from Uganda, derive their estimated £850m fortune from their branded cosmetics business, Lornamead, ranging from Harmony hairspray to Lypsyl lip balm and Yardley perfume.
They have been building a hair care empire which includes several brands acquired from Procter & Gamble last June, such as Vosene, and the licence to distribute Wella hair care products in Ireland.
The acquisition is part of Lornamead's plan to expand in America. Finesse was launched in 1982 as the first brand to offer an oil-free conditioner, while Aqua Net hit the market in the early 1950s and was originally sold as a salon brand. Together they generated more than $85m (£47m) in sales last year.
Mike Jatania, 41, who as the chief executive of Lornamead is the only one of the brothers to be actively involved in the running of the business, said: "We believe that this acquisition makes Lornamead a significant player in the hair care category worldwide. The Finesse and Aqua Net brands are well known and respected brands in North America."
The North American hair care market was worth $6.7bn in 2004 and has been growing by 4 per cent a year over the last five years.
The Jatanias moved their business from Dubai to London last year. While there are no imminent plans to float Lornamead, Mr Jatania said last year that he would consider a listing if market conditions are favourable.
Lornamead was set up in 1978 as a trading house to represent the interests of blue-chip brand owners in Africa. Since 1985, Lornamead has been developing its own brands, including the ethnic skincare range Tura, across Asia, Europe and South Africa.