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Charles Jourdan To Be Liquidated

Charles Jourdan, the troubled French luxury footwear and accessories brand that filed for bankruptcy protection in September, is being liquidated by the...

PARIS — Charles Jourdan, the troubled French luxury footwear and accessories brand that filed for bankruptcy protection in September, is being liquidated by the French commercial courts.

The disclosure Monday came after the American group Omniscent, which was the last candidate for the purchase of Jourdan, stepped away from the negotiating table.

Rick and Kathy Hilton — the parents of Paris and Nicky — are investment partners in Omniscent and were interested in the luxury shoe brand to launch a Kathy Hilton by Charles Jourdan line of shoes.

"After gathering up all the information by the forensic accountant, we decided to withdraw," said Lucien Lallouz, president of Omniscent. "There were too many uncertainties as to who really owns the brand."

Jourdan had sold the rights to its brand name in North America, Lallouz said, without discussing details. Earlier this month, Lallouz said he was optimistic about a resolution. Omniscent was deciding whether to buy the company for a symbolic euro, or $1.44 at current exchange.

Last month, French shoe firm Repetto retracted its offer to buy the company because of the uncertainty.

Founded in 1921 by French shoemaker Charles Jourdan, the firm opened its first store in Paris in 1957 and reached its zenith in the Seventies, when Jourdan’s platform shoes were an integral accessory to the disco scene.

Financial troubles in 2002 led to the shuttering of several Charles Jourdan stores, the layoffs of one-third of its workforce and the hiring of designers (Patrick Cox, who left in December 2004, and Joseph Thimister, who departed in May). But those moves failed to bring the brand back. Its latest collection, unveiled at the Premiere Classe trade fair here in September, was designed by an in-house team.

Although Jourdan executives did not disclose numbers, industry sources estimated the company carried a debt of 2 million euros, or about $2.9 million.

"Charles Jourdan is dead. It’s a catastrophe," said Bénédicte Jourdan, granddaughter of the house’s founder. "We fought for many years. Charles Jourdan was the leader. To see all its savoir-faire and history vanish is a total shock."

Jourdan blamed the decline on a competitive high-end footwear market dominated by major luxury houses such as Jimmy Choo, as well as on management.

The brand’s last owner, Yannis Bilquez, was arrested by Swiss police this month for alleged "disloyal management." He had purchased Jourdan two years ago via a Luxembourg holding company called Finaluxe.

Charles Jourdan employed 212 workers.