Neiman Marcus Group has filed counter claims against one of its creditors, Marble Ridge Capital, for damages resulting from what the retailer terms “a series of false statements that Marble Ridge has made publicly about the company.”
Neiman’s alleges that Marble Ridge falsely accused the company of being in default under its agreements with its debtholders and that Marble Ridge made the statements to harm the retailer and for other improper purposes.
Neiman’s seeks over $1 million in monetary damages on the claims. The Dallas-based luxury retailer filed its counter claims in the District Court of Dallas County, Tex., on Friday.
Neiman’s filings are a response to last week’s lawsuit by Marble Ridge Capital filed in the Dallas court alleging “the fraudulent transfer of the MyTheresa assets to Ares Management and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board for no consideration.”
“These assets have been placed beyond the reach of the company’s creditors in order to hinder and delay creditor recovery,” Marble Ridge said in its complaint.
Marble Ridge, a three-year-old firm that invests in distressed debt, also contended that Neiman Marcus is “insolvent” and asked the court to appoint a receiver to address the issue of the transfer of about $1 billion of assets to Ares and the CPPIB, owners of the Neiman Marcus Group. The Marble Ridge complaint seeks in excess of $1 million in relief.
But Neiman’s in its filing contends that Marble Ridge’s claims are “legally defective” and denies all of Marble Ridge’s allegations. “The transactions that have been the subject of Marble Ridge’s false public statements fully complied with the company’s agreements and the law,” Neiman’s said.
The retailer also characterized Marble Ridge as “an adviser” to a “master fund” that owns less than 1 percent of Neiman Marcus’ total debt and none of the term loan. Based on that assessment, Neiman’s said Marble Ridge lacks basis for its complaint. “For standing, a plaintiff must be personally aggrieved,” Neiman’s said in its suit.
One financial source close to the situation disputed Neiman’s characterization of Marble Ridge, contending that Neiman’s understated Marble Ridge’s position in the debt.
Neiman’s wrote in its filing: “Over the last several months, Marble Ridge has repeatedly disseminated false statements through the mails and wires accusing Neiman Marcus of being in default under its debt documents. On information and belief, Marble Ridge is making these false statements to manipulate the price of Neiman Marcus’ debt so Marble Ridge can improperly profit on its trades and to attempt to extort value from Neiman Marcus. Neiman Marcus believes this is not the first time Marble Ridge has engaged in such practices. Neiman Marcus is simply Marble Ridge’s latest target.”
Neiman’s also stressed that it has $620 million in liquidity and “ample runway to refinance its debt with no near-term maturities.”
But the pressure on Neiman’s to restructure its debt is growing. The retailer has $4.6 billion in debt on its books, which includes a $2.8 billion term loan due in October 2020. The company also has two sets of bonds and an asset-backed loan due in 2021.
Neiman’s is seeking to drive adjusted EBITDA to more than $700 million within five years, and reported adjusted EBITDA of $458 million for the last 12 months. Last fiscal year, the company paid more than $307 million to cover interest on the debt.
Neiman’s says it has “repeatedly encouraged Marble Ridge to join one of two creditor groups that have formed — which in total include holders of more than $2 billion of debt — to negotiate an extension of Neiman Marcus’ debt maturities.”
In a recent conference call on its earnings, NMG’s chief executive officer Geoffroy van Raemdonck, said, “We believe a mutually beneficial solution can be reached and intend to continue to seek a result that will benefit the company and its various stakeholders.”
“Neiman Marcus will not stand by idly as Marble Ridge attempts to derail the positive momentum its businesses have achieved over the last several years,” Friday’s court filing indicated.
Marble Ridge did not disclose the size of its position in Neiman’s debt. In a statement Friday in response to Neiman’s action, the Marble Ridge said, “The facts are straightforward” and that Neiman’s has been charged in court with among other wrongdoings, “the fraudulent conveyance of approximately $1 billion of assets to private equity firms Ares Management LLP and the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board, which are the beneficial owners of Neiman Marcus Group.”
Marble Ridge also said “It is very telling that the thrust of the defendants’ response is to say that the culprit here is Marble Ridge, not Neiman Marcus, and it is important to ‘stop’ Marble Ridge. The fact is, as Marble Ridge has publicly and privately pointed out, Neiman is in financial distress. It has not been fully transparent about its machinations, which are designed to line the pockets of Neiman’s management, Ares, and the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board.
Neiman’s accused Marble Ridge of making public statements about its finances that were damaging its credit rating and its relationships with business partners and customers. But Marble Ridge responded by stating, “As defendants are well aware, concerns about its financial condition and business viability had been raised in the public domain by the financial press well before Marble Ridge made any public statements.”