Byline: Katherine Weisman
PARIS — The first shoe has dropped in the reorganization drama of Bidermann SA.
A deal reportedly has been struck to sell the company’s European operations. The second shoe may involve the divestment or breaking up of its U.S. division, Bidermann Industries.
Trading in shares of Bidermann International, the company’s Paris-based operating arm, was suspended on the French stock market Wednesday afternoon in anticipation of an announcement today regarding the future of the company, according to the Societe des Bourses Francaises. An Agence France Presse report Wednesday evening quoted a lawyer representing a group led by Alain Némarcq, president of the Tehen knitwear group and a former managing director of Bidermann SA, along with Leo Gros, the founder of Montagut, a French ready-to-wear manufacturer, saying the group had reached an agreement with Bidermann, its creditors and the French government branch responsible for overseeing restructuring plans for the French-based part of the company. As reported, the Némarcq group confirmed last month that it had offered a restructuring plan for Bidermann.
It now appears that both Bidermann and Némarcq/Gros will issue formal statements today regarding the terms of the agreement. According to recent press reports, the Némarcq/Gros plan involves acquiring Bidermann International’s European operations only, which represented roughly a third of the Group’s 1993 total turnover of $903.8 million (4.7 billion francs). This would imply that Bidermann’s U.S. arm, Bidermann Industries, could be spun off entirely, or in separate company pieces.
Bidermann SA is the holding company that controls Bidermann International, an operating company comprising Bidermann Industries in the U.S. and Bidermann Europe as two of its principal apparel subsidiaries. Throughout the year, there has been speculation that all of Bidermann SA, or individual pieces of Bidermann International, might be sold to help reduce Bidermann’s debt load.
Last year, Bidermann’s debt totaled roughly $172 million, primarily stemming from the company’s 1990 acquisition of U.S. shirt and hosiery concern Cluett, Peabody, which owns the Arrow and Gold Toe brands.
In the U.S., along with Cluett, Peabody, Bidermann holds the license for Ralph Lauren Womenswear and Yves Saint Laurent men’s wear. A Lauren spokeswoman in New York referred requests for comment to Michel Zelnik, chairman of Bidermann Industries. Zelnik stated that to his knowledge, the deal “would not affect us, because the U.S. operations are going to be separate from the French entities.”