NRDC Said Eyeing Kleinfeld’s

NRDC Equity Partners has bridal on its brain.

NRDC Equity Partners has bridal on its brain.

This story first appeared in the February 5, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

According to sources, the investment company has shown interest in Kleinfeld’s, the famous bridal emporium, though no deal is cooking. It’s possible talks will heat up again in the future, the sources said.

“We don’t know anything about it,” said Mara Urshel, one of the owners of Kleinfeld’s.

NRDC had no comment Monday.

A combination makes sense. NRDC, which owns Lord & Taylor and Creative Design Studio, has agreed to buy Fortunoff, the struggling home furnishings and jewelry chain that operates a sizeable bridal registry.

In addition, NRDC could expand Kleinfeld’s, which operates only one store at 110 West 20th Street in Manhattan.

Kleinfeld’s was founded by Hedda Kleinfeld Schacter and Jack Schacter in 1941. After a long run, the couple sold the store to Michel Zelnik and a group of venture capitalists in 1990.

Zelnik, the former chief executive of Bidermann Industries U.S.A., expanded too quickly, opening leased departments at Saks Fifth Avenue.

Kleinfeld in 1996 barely averted bankruptcy. Gordon Bros. Capital bought the business from Zelnik the following year, and subsequently sold the store to Ronnie Rothstein, Mara Urshel and the actor Wayne Rogers in 1999.

As reported, NRDC plans to spend $110 million to buy Fortunoff, resolve its liquidity crisis and meet certain obligations like gift cards, benefits and debt, and then build up the business with merchandise upgrades and by creating Fortunoff jewelry and home shops inside Lord & Taylor stores. The deal is expected to close in early March, though there is room for competing offers.

The agreement was unveiled Sunday and was made possible through Fortunoff’s 363 bankruptcy filing that night in Manhattan.

In its bankruptcy filing, Fortunoff said it expects there will be funds available for distribution to unsecured creditors. The company said it had between 50,000 and 100,000 creditors. Assets were estimated at between $100 million to $500 million, as were liabilities.

The eight largest creditors are: Agio, Virginia Beach, Va., $5.7 million; Arandell, Menomonec Falls, Wis., $1.3 million; Bloomingdale Road Investors, New York, $1.2 million; Graphic Communications, Aliso Viejo, Calif., $948,219; Weber Stephens, Palatine, Ill., $851,001; Kama Jewelry India Ltd., Off Farley Road, India, $842,228; Stein World, Memphis, $832,870, and Movado Group, Paramus, N.J., $793,755.

NRDC is buying Fortunoff from a private equity group that includes Trimaran Capital Partners, which acquired Fortunoff in 2005. The Fortunoff and Mayrock families sold their minority stake to the private equity group in December 2007.

Last year, according to court documents, Fortunoff generated sales of $464.3 million and losses of $36.6 million.