By  on December 19, 1994

NEW YORK -- Phillips-Van Heusen could be one of the potential buyers of Bidermann Industries USA. And, according to Bidermann president Michel Zelnik, Ralph Lauren may take a look at Bidermann's books as well.

Reports have long circulated that Lauren would someday try to take his women's wear business, licensed to Bidermann, under his own wing.

Asked about reports circulating in the market concerning PVH's interest in Bidermann, Bruce Klatsky, chairman and chief executive officer of PVH, said, "The company's being marketed. We're certainly interested in looking at it."

He wouldn't specify whether he was interested in the whole company, or part of it, and said that as of Friday afternoon, he hadn't taken a look at the books yet.

In addition to Ralph Lauren Womenswear, key lines at Bidermann USA are Arrow shirts, Yves Saint Laurent men's wear and Gold Toe socks, lines that would complement PVH's own men's wear portfolio.

Asked about Van Heusen's interest, Zelnik said, "I believe they're in the process of signing a letter of confidentiality." Companies interested in acquiring another company routinely sign such letters before looking at the potential acquisition's books. Zelnik also noted that Lauren "is asking to look at the numbers."

Executives at Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. could not be reached for comment.

Recurring reports have stated that Zelnik was trying to put his own investment group together to buy Bidermann Industries, but Zelnik, as in the past, declined to comment about his plans.

Last week, Bidermann USA confirmed that it was on the selling block and that its board of directors had given executives permission to pursue their best offers. At the time, Zelnik said the company's financial adviser, Lazard Fréres, had informed them that "several qualified buyers have expressed strong interest in purchasing our operations and our stable of branded products."

Bidermann Industries, which is 68 percent owned by Paris-based Bidermann International SA, has an independent capital structure from its parent. Bidermann International is 97 percent owned by a French holding company, Bidermann SA.

Bidermann is not the only company PVH is eyeing these days. Phillips-Van Heusen has pending a $120 million bid for Crystal Brands, which is reorganizing in Chapter 11 and has trimmed its operations to primarily its core men's sportswear.

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