The bidders for Saks Inc. and its assets include a retailer with $1.3 billion in sales and a vendor with one foot in retail, as well as private equity firms flush with cash and eager to invest it. The private equity firms are described by bankers and investors in the retail industry as aggressive and disciplined. When it comes to business deals, these firms usually make an acquisition with a clear exit strategy to recoup their investment along with a 20 percent or more return. Private equity players also have no qualms about walking away from a deal.

Apax Partners Inc.: Apax has raised more than $20 billion in capital with investments in 340 companies worldwide. The venture capital and private equity firm has offices in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East. Apax typically partners on deals with other venture capital firms and leveraged buyout companies. Last year, the company acquired a controlling interest in Spyder Active Sports, a deal valued at $100 million.

Apollo Management LP: Apollo, with headquarters in Purchase, N.Y., was founded in 1990, and describes itself as one of the "most active and successful private investment firms in the U.S." The firm has managed about $13 billion in capital. Robert DiNicola, former chairman and chief executive officer at Zale Corp., is a retail adviser. Apollo was co-founded by Michael S. Gross, who serves on the audit committee of Saks Inc. and is a member of the retailer's board.

The Blackstone Group: The Blackstone Group is a New York-based private equity, real estate and financial advisory firm that was founded in 1985 by Peter G. Peterson and Stephen A. Schwarzman and had $400,000 on its balance sheet. The company now manages $14 billion worth of capital. Holdings include Allied Waste, Celanese, Houghton Mifflin, Spirit Group, TRW Automotive, Texas Genco and Universal Orlando. Blackstone has also partnered on deals with companies such as AOL Time Warner, AT&T and Sony Corp. The Blackstone Group had partnered with Thomas H. Lee Partners in a bid for The Neiman Marcus Group, but they lost out to Texas Pacific Group and Warburg Pincus, which this year acquired the luxury retailer for $5.1 billion.

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