Saks On The Acquisition Block?

Fashion parties are inherently uncomfortable, well-dressed and sometimes awkward events. They can also be a lot of fun for anyone who enjoys getting dressed up having cocktails and looking at beautiful objects/designs. When fashion intersects with retail (the business of selling these sometimes artistic/sometimes commercially minded clothing creations), my job occasionally involves attending some of these parties.

Last night Saks threw a big launch party for a new coffeetable book entitled "Tartan: Romancing the Plaid." Anyhow, Saks CEO Steve Sadove and Chief Merchandising Officer Ron Frasch were in attendance to kick off the party. Unfortunately, they darted off immediately after taking photos at the start of the event around 6.30, just missing the massive crowd of attendees that filled the second floor of Saks Fifth Avenue.

There were many in that crowd (including me) with questions for the executives particularly after private equity firm baugur made official its interest in acquiring Saks yesterday. The Icelandic firm Baugur now has an 8.5% stake in Saks and according to the 13-D filing "has had exploratory discussions with Milestone Resources Group Limited (Landmark)" (which is currently a Saks shareholder) "to explore the possibility of making a joint proposal with Landmark" for an acquisition of Saks.

This refreshed the buzz of two weeks ago after a Citi analyst speculated that Baugur had upped holdings in Saks. While other private equity names were mentioned, yesterday's filing confirms Baugur's interest in a buyout and makes the first mention that I've seen of the involvement of Dubai-based Landmark Group. If I had to guess where Sadove and Frasch ran off to, I would say it was to a company meeting about that news.

Why is there all this interest in taking out Saks? The company is a "small" company with a big name still in the midst of a turnaround. The U.S. dollar is weak enough that a buy out is cheap for international funds/companies. These days there is growing international interest in buying brands to leverage that name recognition for expansion. American brands, American luxury seems up for sale.

Questions? Comments?