By and  on August 26, 2005

NEW YORK — Saks Inc.'s decision day is near.

Financial sources said Thursday the bids are in and the Saks Inc. board could reach a decision as soon as this weekend on the winner. It also could seek a second round of offers. Saks officials declined comment.

Meanwhile, there has been a shakeout among the bidders, with the one-time front-runner Cerberus Capital Management deciding to drop out of the race. About a dozen other companies — both financial and strategic — are still said to be in it, though, ranging from Texas Pacific Group to Bain Capital, Jones Apparel to Bon-Ton. Blackstone and Jones are said to be interested only in SFA.

There have been some other surprises, the major one being that no company now appears to have put in a bid for all of Saks Inc., which would include both Saks Fifth Avenue and the northern department store group. One stumbling block may have been a too-high price tag for all of the retailer, financial sources said.

Shareholder sources still believe all of Saks Inc. will be sold off, albeit piecemeal.

for all of Saks Inc., which would include both Saks Fifth Avenue and the northern department store group. One stumbling block may have been a too-high price tag for all of the retailer, financial sources said.

Shareholder sources still believe all of Saks Inc. will be sold off, albeit piecemeal.

Saks' announcement on Wednesday that the company had completed its internal investigation of improper markdowns and that it would repay vendors more than $48 million, along with the resignation this week of George Jones, president and chief executive officer of the department store group, convinced some shareholders that the entire company would be sold.

People knowledgeable about the situation said Bon-Ton remains in the running for at least the department store group, which consists of the Carson Pirie Scott, Bergner's, Younker's and Boston Store nameplates.

Saks' smaller division, Club Libby Lu, is also on the auction block, and is said to be attracting the interest of Too Inc., Claire's and Build-a-Bear. Saks in July sold its southern department store group — Proffitt's and McRae's — to Belk Inc. for more than $620 million.

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