NEW YORK — The checkered history of Kasper ASL Ltd. took another twist Wednesday.

Chairman and chief executive officer John D. Idol and an unspecified group of upper management at Kasper have partnered with private equity firm Parthenon Capital LLC in an offer to purchase the bankrupt firm from creditors for $88 million in cash. The proposal was delivered Wednesday to a special committee of Kasper’s board.

Of the total sum, $6 million would be used to pay transaction fees and other expenses, making the actual purchase price $82 million.

Industry estimates put the total amount of Kasper’s outstanding claims at approximately $148 million. Regarding the $82 million number, Idol told WWD Wednesday that the group reached the figure by looking at projections and the amount of debt it would be willing to take on as a private operation.

According to a source close to the deal, now that creditors have been presented with a plan, the creditors committee will begin the process of studying and reviewing the proposal. However, with an offer on the table, it is subject to higher and better offers, the source said.

The offer came just one day prior to a scheduled bankruptcy court hearing to consider the company’s most recently amended plan of reorganization and a disclosure statement filed about 30 days ago. The plan involves changing the corporate name from Kasper ASL to Anne Klein Group and swapping outstanding Kasper stock for newly issued shares of Anne Klein in order to pay off liabilities. It is similar to the reorganization plan of Feb. 5, when the company filed a pre-arranged bankruptcy agreement, according to Idol.

In addition to its signature line of Kasper better-priced suits, the company produces the Anne Klein sportswear line, the Le Suit moderate line, and the Albert Nipon ready-to-wear collection. Its brands are sold in more than 3,000 doors in the U.S., Canada, Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

Today’s hearing about the pending disclosure statement currently on file has been postponed to allow creditors time to consider the new all-cash proposal. If the creditors committee decides to go ahead with negotiations with Kasper management and Parthenon, a new plan of reorganization and disclosure statement will be drafted.According to industry sources, the consideration period should take about 60 days, though there is no official time period for creditors to make a decision.

Whether private or public, the goal of the company remains the same, Idol noted. He said the firm plans to continue the profitability it has now reported during the past four quarters — $10 million in income for the three months ended Sept. 28, versus a $25.3 million loss in the year-ago quarter — increase volume and acquire brands, though he wouldn’t give details about what types of brands or in what apparel sectors the company might be looking.

"The group of bondholders and unsecured creditors has been 100 percent supportive from a plan and growth standpoint," Idol said. "We could achieve the same results as a public company."

Other options for bondholders — should they not accept the $82 million offer — include entering into negotiations with Kasper management about a new price, continuing with the pending filing to reorganize and take the company public or shop the company.

As reported, Kasper’s pre-arranged bankruptcy plan from February was created after acquiring a heavy debt load from its acquisition of the Anne Klein labels. ASL refers to former chairman Arthur S. Levine, who left the company shortly after Idol came on board in July 2001 after a turnaround effort at Donna Karan International.

For the nine months, Kasper earned $21.6 million against a loss of $39.9 million for the year-ago period. Revenues decreased 6.6 percent to $279.2 million.

Levine, who founded the predecessor firm Sassco Fashions, in the Seventies, then started a better suit line with Elie Tahari that now competes directly with Kasper suits.

But the extent of Kasper’s financial troubles harkens back to 1997, when Kasper helped the Leslie Fay Co. — Kasper’s parent company at the time — emerge from bankruptcy by spinning the suit division off as its own publicly traded company.

As for its partnership with Parthenon Capital, Idol said that company’s significant resources are a key to their relationship.

"They are strategic long-term investors," Idol said. "They understand our growth plan and desire to grow the company with acquisitions as well."

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