The Fruit of the Loom brand dates back to 1851 in Rhode Island when Robert Knight, a textile mill owner, visited his friend, Rufus Skeel. Mr. Skeel owned a small shop in Providence, Rhode Island that sold cloth from Mr. Knight’s mill. Mr. Skeel’s daughter painted images of fruit and applied them to the bolts of cloth. The ones with the fruit emblems proved most popular. Mr. Knight thought the labels would be the perfect symbol for his trade name, Fruit of the Loom.
In 1871, just one year after the first trademark laws were passed by Congress, Mr. Knight received patent number 418 for the brand, Fruit of the Loom.
The company was part of Northwest Industries, Inc., until NWI was purchased by William F. Farley in 1985 and renamed Farley Industries, Inc. William F. Farley, the company’s former chairman, chief executive officer, and chief operating officer was forced out prior to bankruptcy in late 1999, after having piloted the company into massive debt and unproductive business ventures.
The company was brought from bankruptcy by Berkshire Hathaway Corporation, controlled by legendary investor Warren Buffett, who wanted the valuable brand. He agreed in January 2002 to purchase the company for approximately $835 million in cash. The deal was concluded on April 29, 2002. A condition of the purchase required that former Chief Operating Officer and the then interim CEO, John Holland, remain available to be the CEO for the company.
The company purchased Russell Corporation, effectively taking the former competitor private in a deal that was completed August 1, 2006.
The company announced the purchase of VF Corporation’s intimate apparel business for $350 million in cash on January 23, 2007.