Neiman Marcus Fires Chef

The Neiman Marcus Group Inc. said yesterday that it sold Chef's Catalog to Pikes Peak Direct Marketing Inc.

Chef's Catalog, founded in 1979, markets brand-name cookware such as Calphalon, Cuisinart and KitchenAid to culinary enthusiasts. It publishes four editions yearly, with an annual circulation of 30 million and annual sales of $75 million.

Pikes Peak, San Francisco, is a newly formed corporation controlled by private equity firm JH Partners LLC. Its CEO is Jon Medved, who most recently served as CEO of direct marketing firm Walter Drake.

Cookware "is a growing area of interest for a lot of people," said Jeff Hansen, principal at JH Partners. "This is an opportunity to take advantage of that by buying the [No. 2] direct mailer in the space."

JH thinks much can be done with Chef's Catalog, which never really found a home at Neiman Marcus, Hansen said.

Along with the catalog, there is, biannual warehouse sales and two retail stores. This year, the brand started another book, MasterChefs, which offers top-of-the-line cookware, and an online gift registry.

Neiman Marcus, Dallas, acquired Chef's Catalog in 1998. In connection with the sale, the company expects to record a pre-tax loss of $15 million to $17 million in its fiscal second quarter.

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