CALVIN KLEIN FINISHES QUARTER WITHOUT A SUITOR IN THE WINGS

Byline: Lisa Lockwood

NEW YORK — It looks like Calvin Klein’s deadline is elastic.
Klein had expected to reach an agreement by the end of the first quarter to sell the business. However, the first quarter has come and gone without a deal.
“The process is continuing to move forward, and the company is comfortable with where it [the process] stands,” said a Calvin Klein spokesman. “There is no set deadline for when it expects to complete that process.”
As reported, Klein hired Lazard Freres & Co. last October to explore strategic options for the company, whether a joint venture, merger or outright sale. Several companies, including Holding di Partecipazioni Industriali and Tommy Hilfiger Corp., scrutinized Klein’s books and came close to making a deal, but pulled out.
HdP decided to focus much of its energies on its publishing units. Hilfiger negotiators pulled out about 10 days ago, according to sources, after being unable to come to terms with Klein on price, as well as other issues. A Hilfiger spokeswoman had no comment Friday on whether Hilfiger had officially pulled out of the negotiations.
Klein and his partner, Barry Schwartz, are said to be seeking about $1 billion for the company.
Sources say there are still a couple of players out there, including one company that’s very hot to make the acquisition: The Warnaco Group. Warnaco, which produces the lion’s share of Klein’s apparel, had made an initial bid that wasn’t high enough. (See related story beginning on page one.) It reportedly is now trying to come back with a higher bid — at least one higher than Hilfiger’s, which sources said was in the neighborhood of $850 million.
Another option for Klein and Schwartz is to take the company off the market if they don’t get their price and continue to run it themselves. Having put together a new management team in the last several months, the company is poised for growth in many different areas.
Sources said if they pulled the company off the market, they might revisit the idea of a sale two years down the road.

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