North Castle Partners Acquires Controlling Interest in HDS Cosmetics Lab, a Leading Maker of Cosmeceutical Skin Care Products

GREENWICH, Conn., Apr 8, 2004 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- North Castle Partners, LLC, the leading private equity firm focused exclusively on the Healthy Living & Aging marketplace, announced today that it has acquired a controlling interest in HDS Cosmetics Lab, Inc., manufacturer and marketer of the DDF (Doctor's Dermatologic Formula) doctor-developed and clinically formulated "cosmeceutical" skin care brand. DDF is a rapidly growing advanced skin care line offering high-tech, high-performance formulas boosted by botanical extracts for improved efficacy. DDF products provide the most comprehensive skin solutions available without a prescription. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

"The cosmeceutical market is a perfect fit for North Castle given our focus on healthy living and aging," said Rich Gersten, a managing director of the firm. "As consumers seek to enhance their appearance and to address the impacts of aging, the interest in high quality skin care solutions and advanced formulations will continue to grow rapidly."

"We have been very impressed by the high quality of the DDF products and the accomplishments of the talented DDF management team and we are very pleased that they will be continuing with the business," said Ellen Marram, managing director at North Castle. "We look forward to partnering with them to further build the brand and its growing consumer franchise."

Cosmeceuticals, a relatively new segment that straddles the cosmetic and medical sectors, is the fastest growing category in the personal care industry. According to NPD Group, traditional skin care sales in department stores grew six per cent while sales of cosmeceuticals brands soared by 77 per cent in 2003. Datamonitor projects future overall growth of the cosmeceutical category to be in excess of 20% per year.

"We could not have asked for a better partner," said Joseph Contorno, Chief Executive Officer and President of HDS Cosmetics Lab, Inc. "North Castle Partners is well respected for its deep experience in the healthy living and aging marketplace, and it's clear we have similar values and share a common vision of how to best build DDF. We look forward to a future of expansive growth for the DDF brand and for the cosmeceutical industry."

Easton Hunt Capital Partners (an investor in HDS since 2001) and Easton Hunt New York (a separate fund with the New York State Common Retirement Fund as sole Limited Partner) will also invest in the new financing of HDS. Easton Hunt New York has the specific mission of investing in New York State companies with demonstrated strong growth and job creation potential. Easton Hunt Capital Partners and Easton Hunt New York are both affiliates of the Easton Capital Group. More information about Easton Capital is available at

About HDS Cosmetics Lab, Inc.

HDS Cosmetics Lab, Inc., based in Yonkers, NY, was founded in 1991 by New York dermatologist Dr. Howard Sobel. The company formulates, develops, manufactures, distributes and markets cosmeceutical skin care products under the DDF (Doctors' Dermatologic Formula) brand. DDF's proprietary "Cleanse, Protect, Treat" protocols are organized to address individual skin concerns including anti-aging, acne, sensitive skin, hyperpigmentation and environmental damage/sun care. The company also produces professional treatment products for use in the spa and medical fields. DDF products are currently available in specialty and retail department stores, including Bath & Body Works, Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdale's, Macy's, Nordstrom, Pure Beauty and Sephora and select spas and doctors' offices internationally. For more information, visit

About North Castle Partners

North Castle Partners, LLC, is the leading private equity firm focused exclusively on the Healthy Living & Aging marketplace. To date, it has invested more than $800 million of equity in over 40 companies that have been consolidated into nine industry-leading platforms: fitness clubs; active lifestyle nutrition; healthy beverages; day spas; complementary and alternative medicine; vitamins, minerals and supplements; natural personal care; adventure and luxury travel; and behavioral health services.

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