William Susman has formed a boutique advisory and research firm for the retail, consumer and personal care sectors called Threadstone Partners, a year after leaving Financo Inc., where he was president and chief operating officer.

“I was very proud of my accomplishments at Financo, but in the absence of a transition plan, I felt it was important to move on,” Susman said.

This story first appeared in the January 13, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Threadstone, a name invoking the fashion constituency Susman plans to serve, is close to signing an office lease and is awaiting final broker dealer approval. The threadstonelp.com Web site launched this week. Susman said Threadstone has begun working with a large-cap specialty retailer seeking another channel of distribution through an acquisition; a private equity firm intending to buy a $250 million hard goods retailer; a Council of Fashion Designers of America award-winning accessories designer seeking capital, and a century-old, family-owned $40 million soft goods retailer that’s up for sale. He declined to name any of the clients.

In the following Q&A, Susman elaborates on Threadstone’s mission and team.

WWD: How is Threadstone Partners structured?
William Susman:
There are three divisions. Threadstone Advisors will provide investment banking advice including sell side, buy side and merger counseling; raising capital, and independent advisory services such as fairness opinions and initial public offering advise. The expected deal size will likely range from $50 million to $1 billion. We have already closed four transactions representing men’s wear, women’s wear, personal care and hard goods.

Threadstone Retail Tracker will provide the investment community with insights on trends and market activity in retailing and is being marketed to hedge funds, mutual funds, asset managers and private equity funds. And we have Threadstone Consulting, which will give our corporate clients the support to achieve strategic goals, on either a project or ongoing basis. So it’s a suite of services, offering clients a broader perspective and sound, independent advice across various disciplines.

WWD: How does Threadstone differentiate?
First, no other firm offers independent advisory and research insights. We believe this combination gives a broader perspective on industry trends, new growth brands and the changing retail landscape. The banking effort will remain independent from the research effort. Second, the team has decades of experience and will maintain a high degree of discipline in the number of its clients. We want to foster in-depth relationships rather than just transaction-oriented services. Our goal is to work with fewer clients on a higher level, over time.

WWD: Are you building a team?
There are four partners and we all have the title managing director. I really wanted an environment without hierarchy and where we work together in a collaborative way. Todd Slater and myself will focus on the investment banking advisory side. Todd spent over a decade working at Lazard and has deep ceo relationships.

Marni Shapiro and Mark Friedman lead our research and consulting business. The three of us worked together at Merrill Lynch, and Marni established The Retail Tracker in 2006. Threadstone Retail Tracker is an evolution of that, broadening the offering. We have all known and worked together on and off for over 15 years so bringing this group together was very natural.

WWD: What’s your outlook?
Investment banking activity remains very high. Debt capital is both cheap and available supporting corporate acquisitions as well as private equity transactions. Also, corporate balance sheets are generally very healthy with ample equity to contribute to logical strategic transactions. Bankruptcies will still occur, but at a slower rate as many companies have lowered their cost structures and repaired their balance sheets.

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