Wires

UPDATE 3-Clinton Group no longer seeking sale of Wet Seal

* Clinton Group seeks turnaround, wants new CEO

* Company appoints Clinton nominee as chairman of board

(Adds comments, background) By Chris Peters and Ranjita Ganesan

Oct 10 (Reuters) - Activist investor Clinton Group said itwill no longer push for the sale of women's clothing retailerWet Seal Inc after winning control of the board lastweek, but will instead focus on turning the company around.

The hedge fund, however, said that Wet Seal could attractbuyers if it managed to improve its business, and an offer ofbetween $5.00 and $8.00 per share would represent fair value.

The stock was trading at $2.98 on the Nasdaq on Wednesday,valuing the company at $270 million.

Wet Seal named Clinton Group nominee Lynn Davey as chairmanon Wednesday. Davey was one of four Clinton nominees named asdirectors last week, ending a battle for control of theeight-member board.

One board seat remains vacant and the company still lacks achief executive. Davey, the former CEO of Avalon Group Ltd,replaces Harold Kahn.

Wet Seal's share price has fallen 30 percent over the past12 months on concerns the company's poor performance and thefrequent management shakeups meant to remedy the situation.

The retailer, which caters primarily to young women, hasbeen struggling to woo fashion-conscious teenagers at both itsArden B and Wet Seal chains.

"The only way they are going to fix the company is to get anew CEO who is going to put together a team of merchants who canget sales going," said Howard Davidowitz, chairman of Davidowitz& Associates Inc, a New York City-based retail consulting andinvestment banking firm.

Wet Seal fired CEO Susan McGalla in July as Clinton Group,the company's third-biggest shareholder, stepped up pressure onmanagement to perform.

Davidowitz said the company needs to find a CEO quicklybefore its cash runs out. Wet Seal had cash and equivalents of$148 million as of April 28, according to a regulatory filing.

Clinton Group, which holds 7 percent of Wet Seal, said thecompany should focus on hiring a top-notch chief executive andimprove its business before considering a sale.

"There is no definitive time frame set for a turnaround,"Clinton Group Managing Director Greg Taxin told Reuters, addinghe expects the company to show progress in six to nine months.

SEEKING A "FAST" REVAMP

Clinton Group had previously pressed for a sale because WetSeal had fired its CEO without a replacement available and hadno clear strategic direction, he said.

Bob Phibbs, CEO of consulting company The Retail Doctor,said the California brand that was trendy in the 1970s and 1980swould need to get younger members on the board to help bringabout changes that will attract potential bidders.

"Nobody wants to buy a damaged brand," he said, adding thatWet Seal should reduce its footprint and better train its storestaff to boost the business.

Wet Seal, which has been trying to return to a fast-fashionmodel by maintaining light inventories to respond quickly to newstyles and trends, said last week that merchandising chiefHarriet Sustarsic would leave to assume a similar role at TrueReligion Apparel Inc .

Kim Bajrech and Debbie Shinn will lead Wet Seal'smerchandising operations, a responsibility they previouslyshared on an interim basis during a relatively successful periodunder the company's fast-fashion model before Sustarsic'sappointment.

Shares of the Foothill Ranch, California-based company,which have climbed 14 percent since it fired its CEO in July,were down 1 percent at $2.99.

(Reporting By Chris Peters, Ranjita Ganesan and Maria AjitThomas in Bangalore; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty andSreejiraj Eluvangal and Ted Kerr)

((maria.ajit@thomsonreuters.com)(within U.S. +1 646 2238780)(outside U.S. +91 80 4135 5800)(Reuters Messaging:maria.ajit.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

Keywords: WETSEAL CLINTONGROUP/