PARIS — Vivarte expects to complete its financial restructuring on Oct. 29, clearing the way for the French retail conglomerate to change hands and fueling speculation about the fate of its chief executive officer Marc Lelandais, who was instrumental in engineering the deal.
Vivarte’s creditors agreed in July to cut its debt by 2 billion euros, or $2.5 billion at current exchange, and inject new money amounting to 500 million euros, or $634 million. In exchange, majority ownership of the group will switch from Charterhouse Capital Partners to a group of lenders led by four funds: Oaktree, Alcentra, GoldenTree and Babson.
“This final phase of the restructuring starts today. It is meant to raise the 500 million euros in new investment from the group’s lenders by the closing date, in particular from a group of 11 funds who backstopped this amount,” Vivarte said in a statement on Wednesday.
Lelandais joined the apparel and footwear specialist, whose stable of brands includes Caroll, Naf Naf, Kookaï, Chevignon, André, Minelli and Cosmoparis, two years ago and has been battling a morose economic climate with an all-out push to renovate and reinvigorate banners ranging from Kookaï to La Halle.
But those efforts have yet to be reflected in the company’s results. Though Vivarte does not publish figures, sources said sales were down in the financial year ending Aug. 31, impacted by an unusually wet summer in France.
Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization totaled 175 million euros, or $238 million, versus 327 million euros, or $428 million, in the same period a year earlier. All dollar rates are calculated at average exchange rates for the period concerned.
The question is whether the four anchor investors, who are due to appoint a board once the debt restructuring concludes, will give Lelandais more time to carry out his restructuring, or replace him with a candidate of their choice.
A spokesman for the funds declined to comment, except to say they supported the recent nomination of Richard Simonin as deputy chief operating officer. Simonin, who has worked at Harrods, La Redoute, Etam and Escada, is widely seen as a candidate to succeed Lelandais. The anchor investors have said they will have six board members out of nine.
A spokesman for Vivarte declined to comment on the speculation. The group employs 22,000 people and has around 4,800 points of sale.