By  on August 21, 2006

NEW YORK — R. Brad Martin, who relinquished his duties as chief executive of Saks Inc. last January but remains chairman, has further reduced his involvement by selling off most of his stake in the retailer.

According to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing last week, Martin sold 2,218,812 shares of common stock, or about $30.74 million, leaving him with 385,402 shares. His stake went from 1.6 percent of the company to 0.28 percent.

In the Nineties, Martin built Saks Inc., formerly called Proffitt's Inc., into a national retail force via a string of regional department store acquisitions which culminated in the purchase of Saks Fifth Avenue in 1998. It was hoped that the new entity would become stronger than its parts but the strategy unraveled and all the operations, with the exception of Saks Fifth Avenue and Club Libby Lu, a small specialty chain, have been divested.

However, some investors apparently still see value in the stock, which could pick up if Saks Fifth Avenue starts showing improved performance or gets sold. Carlos Slim Helu, the Mexican billionaire, has been accumulating Saks Inc. stock aggressively, and is currently the biggest shareholder with over 18 million shares or about 13 percent of the company. Another big shareholder is Steve Sadove, chief executive officer of Saks Inc., who has about 660,000 shares, or 0.5 percent of the company. Saks' recent performance has been weak, but the brand name still has cachet. Saks stock closed at $15.16, down 27 cents, on the New York Stock Exchange Friday.

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