Minnesota AG Hosts Meeting on Fingerhut

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Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch's office at the state capitol was the site of an hour-long meeting last week that included executives of Federated Department Stores, several potential buyers of Fingerhut Cos. Inc., and political and union leaders, according to the Star Tribune of Minneapolis.

"We are very serious about pursuing a sale as an alternative," Jeff Sherman, chairman of Federated Direct, a division that includes Fingerhut, was quoted by the newspaper.

Tom Petters -- who counts business-to-business exchange RedTag Inc., Eden Prairie, MN, as one of his businesses -- is among those exploring a possible purchase. He said, "We're going to work very hard to put a deal together."

Hatch spokeswoman Leslie Sandberg did not identify other potential buyers at the meeting, but said Wells Fargo & Co. was also represented. Federated, which will dispose of Fingerhut through a sale or by shutting it down, has received "a lot of curiosity about the process" but no formal offers, Sherman said.

Others interested in an acquisition include KPS Special Situations Fund LP, New York, a private equity fund, and the Business Development Group, Wayzata, MN, which is led by Peter Lytle, who was quoted as saying, "We intend to make an offer," and who plans to meet with Fingerhut union officials.

Neither Lytle or Petters have said when they might make an offer, according to the newspaper, which also reported that layoff notices have been sent to nearly 2,600 of its 6,000 core catalog employees.

The state's Dislocated Worker Program has reportedly received four notices from Fingerhut under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act that provides 60-day notice of a mass layoff. The notices cover 427 employees at Fingerhut's Minnetonka, MN, headquarters, 313 at a Brooklyn Center call center, 343 at a similar facility in Eveleth, and 56 at a Plymouth data center. The company indicated that most layoffs will occur between March 24 and April 8.

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