L.L. Bean Ponders Eddie Bauer Acquisition

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L.L. Bean is considering acquiring all or part of competitor Eddie Bauer from its troubled parent Spiegel, which filed for bankruptcy protection more than a month ago.


Bean, which contacted the bankruptcy trustee last week, has considered the move "ever since the announcement that Spiegel was going into bankruptcy proceedings," said spokesperson Rich Donaldson of L.L. Bean, Freeport, ME. "It's very early in the process, [and] it remains unclear how Bauer will emerge from this -- intact under current ownership, intact under new ownership or if elements of the company will be sold off in parts. It's in our best interest to remain informed as things develop, and our response has yet to be determined."


Donaldson said Eddie Bauer's customer list and e-commerce division were attractive assets.


"We will ... continue to invest in channel growth and our multichannel platform that includes retail," he said. "Bauer lays out similar to Bean ... so it matches up very comparably. The exception is they are more skewed to retail. We are committed to moving the business forward in that environment."


He confirmed that company president/CEO Chris McCormick wants to reduce its reliance on catalog sales and wants about half its revenue generated from stores, up from the current 20 percent.


He wouldn't discuss how such a move would affect its position compared with competitors, such as Lands' End, which has a presence in Sears stores after being acquired by the retail giant last year.


Bean's corporate net sales totaled $1.1 billion in fiscal '02.


Donaldson said he didn't know of any other companies that had expressed interest in Eddie Bauer.


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