Marvin Girouard, who announced over the weekend that he would step down as the chairman and CEO of the retailer in February, told the
Fort-Worth Star Telegram
that the odds that the company will be sold are "50-50,"and that a deal would likely occur "in weeks, not in months."
After the newspaper's story Tuesday, Pier 1 released a clarification to Girouard's comments, saying that the company has agreed to provide confidential financial information to several potential buyers, including Jakup a Dul Jacobsen, a Danish retail magnate who owns close to 10% of the company.
The company went on to say that it has received one "preliminary indication of interest" from an unnamed buyer, but that buyer later broke off negotiations with the retailer.
"Pier 1 has had no other substantive discussions, to date, with any of the other entities regarding a possible transaction," the company said in its statement. "Pier 1, therefore, cannot predict whether or when any of these remaining entities will propose a possible transaction, or, if proposed, whether the terms, including the proposed price, would be acceptable to Pier 1's board of directors and its shareholders."
Pier 1 couldn't be reached for further comment.
Shares of Pier 1 were recently down 24 cents, or 3.2%, to $7.36 as investors concluded that Jacobsen likely was the buyer that backed out of exploring a deal to buy the company. Colin McGranahan, analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., disputes that conclusion.
"It's not Jacobsen," says McGranahan. "They're talking about someone else they shopped their book to."
McGranahan notes that Pier 1 hired
in May to explore strategic alternatives.
"There are a bunch of people they're talking to," he says. "One of them said they were interested, so they had a discussion and ultimately decided not to go forward. But that's ancient history. That's not Jacobsen."
Jacobsen disclosed early this year that he owns a 10% stake in Pier 1. The investment immediately gave rise to buyout speculation, since observers view Jacobsen as seeking cheap assets with which to expand his European-based retail empire into the U.S. market. Jacobsen had previously owned a stake in
Linens 'n Things
before it was snapped up by a private equity group, and in March, he acquired Pier 1's U.K.-based operations.
In late September, Pier 1 disclosed that it signed a confidentiality agreement with Jacobsen about a "possible negotiated transaction." Girouard told the
on Monday that those negotiations prompted his decision to retire.
reported Wednesday that Jacobsen's team "is scheduled to visit Fort Worth in two weeks and meet with Girouard and his top lieutenants."
"They just got an agreement signed last week, and it takes at least a few weeks to go through all the data," says McGranahan.
McGranahan says that Pier 1's clarification to Girouard's comments to the
amounts to damage control by the company.
"Their lawyers went ballistic," he says. "Here's the active CEO of a company discounting the probability of a deal and talking about timing. It's unbelievable."
That said, McGranahan speculates that Girouard was on target when he said the odds of a deal happening within weeks is "50-50."
"I like that risk/reward scenario," says McGranahan. "If it happens, any deal would be for at least $10 or $11, and if it doesn't happen the stock will go back to $5.50 to $6. So, if 50-50 is the right probability, that's a good situation for investors."