Jos. A. Bank and Men’s Wearhouse to Begin Talks

Advisers for the two retail chains are set to begin discussions regarding a possible merger.

Let’s deal.

This story first appeared in the March 3, 2014 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Advisers for Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc. and The Men’s Wearhouse Inc. are set to begin discussions regarding a possible combination of the two chains.

Douglas Ewert, chief executive officer and president of Men’s Wearhouse, in a written response Friday to the letter sent by Jos. A. Bank chairman Robert Wildrick a day earlier, said he would be returning a signed confidentiality agreement, with a few minor changes, to his competitor as the first step before discussions and due diligence can begin.

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He also said that Jos. A. Bank’s preference for a cash deal wouldn’t be a problem since that’s the same one Men’s Wearhouse has envisioned.

Ewert said his team will reach out to its counterpart at Jos. A. Bank to set up a schedule for talks.

The current Men’s Wearhouse offer for Jos. A. Bank is $63.50 a share, which Jos. A. Bank rejected, even though it said it was open to talks. Men’s Wearhouse said it was willing to go as high as $65 a share, subject to certain conditions, such as completion of due diligence and Jos. A. Bank dropping its $825 million bid to acquire Eddie Bauer Holdings Inc. from Golden Gate Capital. A transaction at $65 a share would bring the total value of a deal up to $1.8 billion.

Shares of Jos. A. Bank continued their ascent Friday, rising 3 percent to close at $62.08 in Nasdaq trading, while shares of Men’s Wearhouse shot up 6.7 percent to $53.79 in Big Board trading.

Investors seem to prefer a Jos. A. Bank deal involving Men’s Wearhouse to one with Eddie Bauer. That’s a function of wanting the certainty of today over the promise of tomorrow. It’s easier to determine the immediate synergies in a combination with Men’s Wearhouse, even though at some point the risk is how to grow two already mature brands. With Eddie Bauer, the projections for gains are based merely on a presumption that the perceived early turnaround of the chain will gain momentum.