J.C. Penney Co. Inc. has retained investment and advisory firm Blackstone Group to determine ways shore up its rapidly dwindling balance sheet, according to a source with knowledge of the arrangement.
The ailing department store, now once again under the leadership of chief executive officer Myron “Mike” Ullman 3rd, is scrambling after burning through more than $900 million in free cash flow last year as former ceo Ron Johnson tried to remake the chain. Penney’s is said to be looking for a private equity fund that would want to invest in the retailer. RELATED STORY: Dissecting Ron Johnson's Tenure at J.C. Penney >>
A company spokeswoman declined to comment on whether it had hired Blackstone and a spokesman for the advisory firm also declined comment.
But Penney’s has been getting some outside help lately.
“Over the last several months or more, we have engaged outside advisers to provide us with their expertise about how to best position the company from a financial standpoint during the company’s transformation,” the Penney’s spokeswoman said. “It is safe to assume this will continue as part of the work now under way as we develop a game plan for the company going forward.”
Penney’s has a $1.85 billion credit facility that it can draw on to fund operations as well as valuable real estate that it could sell and no debt coming due until 2015. But observers say one of Ullman’s most important first tasks is to reassure jittery vendors, investors and lenders about the company’s financial health.
William Ackman, the activist investor who helped install Johnson as ceo and supported his transformation efforts, told WWD Tuesday that he was sticking by the company. “We’re not going anywhere,” said Ackman, who controls 39.1 million shares of Penney’s, or 17.8 percent of those outstanding. “In fact, we’re going the other direction. We’re digging in.”
The Wall Street Journal first reported that Penney’s hired Blackstone on its Web site late Thursday. The Journal reported Penney’s was seeking to raise up to $1 billion.
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast