By  on March 4, 2002

NEW YORK -- Aeropostale is preparing to go public.

The one-time specialty store division of Federated Department Stores is reportedly working with Bear Stearns on a preliminary prospectus that is expected to be filed within the next couple of weeks, according to Wall Street sources.

Julian Geiger, chairman and chief executive officer of the 275-unit chain, was visiting stores and unavailable for comment.

Reached at his office last week, John Howard of the Merchant Banking Group of Bear Stearns, said he could not comment on the report.

However, one Wall Street investment banker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said he expected the offering to raise between $75 million and $100 million in cash for the company.

Federated sold Aeropostale in 1998 to MSS Delaware Inc., a New York-based investment group headed by Geiger, his management team and the Bear Stearns Merchant Banking Group. At that time, the company consisted of 119 Aeropostale stores in 18 states and 42 Chelsea Cambell women's stores in 17 states, and had sales of around $185 million.

The stores, which were offshoots of Macy's private labels, did not fit into Federated's corporate strategy to focus on department stores. Aeropostale was originally a men's private label and the first specialty store under that name opened in 1987. Shortly after, the mix was expanded to include women's.

Today, Aeropostale targets young adults with "affordable, comfortable" sportswear for women and men. The 100 percent private label mix includes graphic T-shirts, colorful sweaters, denim, casual pants, "dorm gear" and accessories, according to its Web site.

The merchandise is popular with college students as a result of the company's sponsorships of several collegiate conferences across the country. To capitalize on this popularity, Aeropostale offers athletic-inspired apparel with an "updated varsity look." The mall-based stores compete with such hot teen retailers as American Eagle Outfitters and Abercrombie & Fitch.

The Aeropostale name dates back to the Twenties and derives from Compagnie Generale Aeropostale, a pioneer airmail company, which was the first ever to fly between South America and France.

Geiger, a native of New York, began his retail career as a buyer for Bloomingdale's in 1970. He joined Macy's in 1975 as a store manager, and held several positions before being named president of merchandising in charge of men's wear for Macy's East in 1992. He joined Asian American Partners as president of its Eagle's Eye wholesale and retail divisions in 1994 before rejoining Federated as president of its specialty store division in 1996.

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