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Antony Karabus Joins Hilco’s Retail Practice

The company’s advisory activities are expanding in areas including strategy, branding and merchandising.

Antony Karabus has joined The Hilco Organization as president of its SD Retail Consulting practice in an expansion of the company’s advisory activities in areas including strategy, branding and merchandising.

Greg Rubin, previously chief executive officer of SD, becomes chairman of SD, leaving the ceo post vacant. Both Karabus and Rubin will report to Hilco’s management group, headed by Jeffrey Hecktman, chairman and ceo of Hilco.

Karabus founded Karabus Management, a Toronto-based retail consulting firm, in 1990 and served as ceo before selling it to PricewaterhouseCoopers Canada in 2008. He left PwC last year.

Hecktman told WWD that the SD group, currently staffed by more than 30 retail specialists, will be supplemented by additional personnel.

While Hilco is most visible in and best known for its activities as a retail liquidator, Hecktman noted that “distressed companies are now less than half of our business. Our core competency is in taking companies that have a reason to be in business and looking at the balance sheet and both tangible and intangible assets. We see what changes can be made in management, the balance sheet, strategy, vision. That’s led us to make investments, through Hilco Consumer Capital, in over 30 companies in the last four years.”

Among those whole or partial acquisitions have been Halston, Caribbean Joe, Ellen Tracy and the Miss America Organization.

Hilco acquired the debt of British entertainment retailer HMV this week and earlier this month was retained to dispose of many of the assets of bankrupt Hostess Brands Inc.

The Northbrook, Ill.-based firm’s footprint also has become increasingly international, with more than 500 associates working from offices in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Mexico, South America and, more recently, Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok.

“What we’ve done with retail consulting is very much like what we’ve done with our other services, like real estate, corporate finance, restructuring and businesses outside of retail,” Hecktman said. “With Greg Rubin, we added another silo that addressed much of what happens in the back office at retail. With Antony, we’re looking at the front end of the shop — at branding, merchandising, capital and working capital improvements. Our intention is to keep getting better at the businesses we’re in and to find great executives as entrepreneurial partners for them.”

Karabus said that his efforts, initially focused on the U.S. and Europe, will continue to be centered on retail ceo’s, who “are faced with a number of challenges, including a more discerning and challenged consumer, adapting to the digital landscape and omnichannel distribution, and a highly competitive retail climate….They have little margin for error, and our consulting practice must provide solutions to address all these issues, ultimately creating a better experience for the customer and improved shareholder value.”