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Leaner Warnaco Group To Exit Chap. 11 Feb. 4

NEW YORK — The balance sheet will be "deleveraged," operations leaner and volume smaller than at its peak, but when The Warnaco Group emerges from bankruptcy proceedings on Feb. 4 as a freestanding firm, very little else will have...

NEW YORK — The balance sheet will be “deleveraged,” operations leaner and volume smaller than at its peak, but when The Warnaco Group emerges from bankruptcy proceedings on Feb. 4 as a freestanding firm, very little else will have changed.

This story first appeared in the January 17, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Very little brand-wise, that is, because reorganized Warnaco has managed to keep under its umbrella the core apparel brands — Calvin Klein jeanswear and underwear, Olga and Warner’s intimates, Chaps by Ralph Lauren men’s wear and Authentic Fitness/Speedo swimwear — that it had before its detour into Chapter 11 on June 11, 2001.

Some key persons and places will be different, of course. The company’s longtime chief executive officer Linda J. Wachner is no longer with the firm, and its headquarters at 90 Park Avenue here will ultimately be vacated in favor of another Manhattan location that has yet to be determined. But none of those changes have any effect on consumers, whose focus is more likely to be whether they can get the latest Calvin Klein underwear or A.B.S. dress.

For the industry, the changes are far less subtle, said interim ceo Antonio Alvarez of Alvarez and Marsal Inc., the turnaround firm, in a telephone interview Thursday following a Manhattan bankruptcy court’s confirmation of Warnaco’s reorganization plan.

“The turnaround is happening and the firm is coming out of bankruptcy with a very comfortable deleveraged balance sheet, better operations and a stronger management team,” he noted.

Since he joined as chief restructuring officer before the June 2001 Chapter 11 filing, and in his role as ceo following the board’s ouster of Wachner in November 2001, Alvarez has been busy effecting change in back-end operations and on recruitment efforts.

“I can’t overemphasize the quality of people we have recruited in here on fairly short notice. This company is positioned for the next chapter on smart growth,” Alvarez said.

Those “people” efforts include the return of former Warnaco executives to the company fold. Among them are the three top divisional heads: Tom Wyatt for intimate apparel, John Kourakos for sportswear and Roger Williams for Authentic Fitness. All three are candidates for the ceo spot that Alvarez will soon vacate.

Reporting to the troika are between 30 and 40 senior managers, with a handful of them former Warnaco employees. Alvarez said he chose people from within the industry and several from the outside, individuals that together could forge a new perspective for leading the firm and strengthening its brands.

The turnaround expert has also focused on the core strengths of the individuals, shifting responsibilities as he fine-tuned the operation. That is why dress division A.B.S. is managed by Wyatt, even though his realm is intimates.

Alvarez said the decision on who will succeed him as ceo could come any day now and that the search has been “intense. We haven’t set any specific dates. It is getting the highest priority.”

Until now, he noted, Warnaco had focused on putting together a plan of reorganization and exiting bankruptcy.

The new Warnaco will be dealing with new ownership at Calvin Klein Inc., which, as reported, Phillips-Van Heusen Corp. in December agreed to buy for about $700 million in cash, stock and notes. While Warnaco owns the CK underwear operation, it holds the CK jeanswear license until 2044. Warnaco has been working closely with the CKI camp, and has held preliminary talks with the PVH team.

“All of the communications we have been getting from the PVH folks have been positive about them working with us constructively. At the end of the day, we are bound by a win-win goal to maximize the value of the [CK] brand. We are very encouraged by all of the noises that are coming out of PVH that they want to do the same thing with us,” Alvarez observed.

As reported, the banks holding secured claims will recover 34.2 percent of their $2.2 billion in claims against the company. A liquidation of the company — it has an enterprise value of $800 million, but an equity value of $486 million, net of debt and cash on hand — would have garnered just a 19 percent recovery rate for the banks. The recovery rate for unsecured creditors is 7.2 percent in the form of stock in a reorganized Warnaco. A liquidation scenario would have had unsecured creditors receiving next to nothing, an amount so small that, in bankruptcy parlance, it is referred to as “de minimus.” Holders of the old Warnaco stock literally will receive nothing.

The new stock is expected to make its debut on the Nasdaq on Feb. 4. Alvarez’s aggregate payment, including bonus and salary already earned, is $5.7 million.

Warnaco, in bankruptcy court filings, projected an average earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization and restructuring costs of $168 million for the fiscal years 2003 through 2005, on an average revenue base of $1.8 billion.