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Brighter Future

Who says the era of retail buyouts is over? Although the credit crunch makes leveraged buyouts difficult, it doesn't mean that all deals are off the table. A case in point is NRDC Equity Partners, which has announced plans to buy Fortunoff for $100 million, giving it a third retail chain to operate in addition to Lord & Taylor and Linens 'n Things.

In early February, the Westbury, N.Y.-based upscale retailer of jewelry and home products said that it had agreed to be acquired by the Purchase, N.Y.-based private equity firm and was entering Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code to expedite the process.

New York City-based investment firms Trimaran Capital Partners and the Kier Group currently own 75 percent of the Fortunoff chain, which operates 21 stores, while the Fortunoff family owns the remaining 25 percent. The sale is expected to close this month. In the meantime, NRDC Equity Partners provided Fortunoff with a $10 million letter of credit.

If the deal goes through, NRDC will be able to cut its operating costs by housing some Fortunoff stores within Lord & Taylor's 48 locations. Both Fortunoff and Lord & Taylor customers skew older, with ample disposable income, and they shop for value.

Fortunoff locations are in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut, including four full-line stores in Westbury and White Plains, N.Y., Wayne and Woodbridge, N.J., and a jewelry store on 57th Street in New York City.

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