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.
As one of the most recognizable models in the world, Christy Turlington Burns has an insider’s view of the fashion industry and the allegations of sexual harassment swirling around it. “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated in the industry. The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experiences at some point in our careers,” Turlington told WWD, along with her suggestions for how the modeling world should protect younger women and men. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: Tony Palmieri) #wwdnews
@asics America has tapped a new brand ambassador: famed DJ/record producer @steveaoki. This initiative is intended to set the tone for the new brand identity and philosophy and will include partnerships with influencers and in-store and off-line activations that will continue into next year. This is Asics’ most significant marketing effort in two decades, and is expected to attract younger consumers to the brand. #wwdfashion
24-year-old Jean Prounis is redefining the rules of jewelry. Formerly a studio assistant to Jemima Kirke and a design apprentice at Ghuran, she focuses on handcrafted subtleties and ancient goldsmithing techniques. “There was a really sterile feel in the environment and I wanted to have jewelry with character that shapes how you wear it everyday,” Prounis said. Each piece is hand made in New York, either by Prounis or three other jewelers in the district. #wwdfashion
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews
“Stranger Things” is getting a new cast member for season 2. Meet @sadiesink_, the 15-year-old who will be joining the Netflix series for its new season. You may recognize her from “The Glass Castle” with Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson, but the Texas native’s next role goes in an entirely different direction. She describes her character, Max, as “a rough and tumble skater girl [who] becomes friends with the boys at school.” The second season debuts on October 27. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdeye
Amid the Harvey Weinstein controversy, there’s another sector that’s being put under the spotlight for sexual abuse: the modeling industry. While rumors about abuse and sexual harassment of female and male models — and the photographers, agents and others who perpetrated it — have circulated within the fashion world for years, model @cameronrussell started posting stories from models on Instagram last week about abusive situations they’ve encountered — from sexual harassment and molestation to attempted rape. Over 75 have weighed in so far. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews
To celebrate its 16th anniversary, @dylanscandybar tapped designers and celebrities to create mosaics out of candy. The mosaics will be auctioned off to support the philanthropic cause of each participant’s choice. Pictured here is the mural created by @aliceandolivia's Stacey Bendet. For a first look at some of the other artwork being unveiled tonight, go to WWD.com. #wwdeye
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye