By  on January 19, 2006

NEW YORK — George Jones, who retired as president and chief executive officer of the Saks Inc. Department Store Group last September, has expressed interest in acquiring Saks' $750 million Parisian chain, people close to the situation said.

Jones, who had direct responsibility for Parisian, would have to line up Wall Street backing. He is also said to be looking at other retail properties.

Saks Inc. and Jones declined to comment.

Saks officials have been bullish on the 40-store chain, which went up for sale last week, because it has performed better for the past two years and has been opening stores. Same-store sales and merchandise turnover has improved, while expenses were cut.

Parisian has been boosting its contemporary apparel and accessory offerings with labels such as Juicy Couture and Brighton, and there has also been a buildup in shoes. A steady turnover of management, including five ceo's in seven years, had damaged performance.

"Parisian can go head-to-head with Dillard's and Federated, particularly in markets without Saks Fifth Avenue or Neiman's, and add something to the market," said one source. "The trajectory of the business is quite good."

Goldman Sachs and Citigroup are representing Saks Inc. on the sale.

Saks Inc. has already sold the southern portion of its department store group — Proffitt's and McRae's — to Belk for $623 million and its northern group to Bon-Ton for about $1.19 billion. There is speculation that ultimately Saks Fifth Avenue might get sold.

Jones joined Birmingham, Ala.-based Saks Inc. in March 2001 after a seven-year stint at Warner Bros., where he served as president of worldwide licensing and Studio Stores. Before that he worked for Target, Rose's and Dillard's.

During his tenure at Saks Inc., Jones also oversaw the Proffitt's, McRae's, Carson Pirie Scott, Club Libby Lu and private brand organization.

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