Perry Ellis Said to be Prepping For a Sale

NEW YORK (The Deal) -- Perry Ellis International (PERY), the Miami-based apparel group, is likely being prepped for a sale by the controlling Feldenkreis family, according to two sources familiar with the situation.

Over the past several months, Perry Ellis has inked a number of brand licensing deals as it attempts to clean up the company's balance sheet, a process that will likely continue for the next few months, a source said.

While the Feldenkreis family has an emotional attachment to the business, and has additionally profited from business Perry Ellis has done with related companies owned by the family, it has reconciled itself to the idea that it is nearing the time to sell the business.

The family holds about a 17% stake between George Feldenkreis, who is chairman and CEO, and his son Oscar Feldenkreis, who serves as vice chairman, president and COO. That stake increases to about 20% when stock options are calculated in.

Over the past few years, Perry Ellis has considered selling ancillary, noncore brands. But a source said that doing so is not a workable strategy, as the company would only get a fraction of the price it initially paid for those businesses in some cases.

That would result in a steep asset write-down that would be difficult to manage, particularly as a publicly held company. And it is why the Feldenkreis family has shied away from doing so, the person said.

Likely buyers for the business could include VF (VFC), which has continually voiced an interest in lifestyle brands, particularly those with an active outdoor bent, according to a source. The most attractive part of Perry Ellis is its golf-related lifestyle apparel brands.

The source also did not rule out G-III Apparel Group (GIII), although, Perry Ellis may be too big of a transaction for that company to consummate.

Private equity has additionally shown an interest in the space and could be attracted to a buyout, a situation that would mirror Sycamore Partners LLC's $2.2 billion leveraged buyout of Jones Group Inc.

Sycamore, after acquiring Jones Group, began splitting the conglomerate into separate portfolio companies, setting up Kurt Geiger and Stuart Weitzman as independent companies, for example, while other brands Jones owned, such as Rachel Roy and Brian Atwood, were sold off.

A source familiar with the Jones Group transaction said splitting up these apparel companies is something that is sometimes done best as a private company.

Private equity, however, might not find a deal attractive at the company's current valuation. It has an enterprise value of nearly $480 million when about $237 million in debt is added and roughly $48 million in cash is subtracted. That equates to a multiple of 16 times the approximately $30 million in Ebitda generated over the past 12 months, well above what PE has historically paid for such businesses. It is 10 times the roughly $48 million in Ebitda the apparel company is expected to generate for its current fiscal year ending Jan. 31, 2015, according to data provided by Bloomberg. It is the kind of math that points to being acquired by a strategic.

A sale of the company at a premium to its unaffected stock price might also mollify activist investor Legion Partners Asset Management LLC backed by public pension fund California State Teachers' Retirement System. The two entities teamed to take a roughly 6% stake in Perry Ellis, which they revealed in a 13D filing on July 17.

The activists have zeroed in on the retail apparel company's lack of profitability and called for a strategic review. They also said Perry Ellis should make changes to its governance structure, including separating the CEO and chairman roles held by George Feldenkreis.

Since the activists announced the stake, the company's stock is up nearly 13% from its July 16 close of $17.37 per share, to trade at $19.62 per share by Wednesday afternoon. On Wednesday, it was up more than 2%, giving the company a market cap of almost $290 million.

The stock price, though, was already in recovery mode after reaching a 52-week low in late February of $12.37 per share.

A Perry Ellis representative said the company was in a quiet period and, therefore, would decline to comment for this article.

The sale and subsequent split-up of Perry Ellis would follow a broader trend of the break-up of apparel giants that used to dominate Seventh Avenue, the center of New York City's garment district. Such apparel groups serviced the vibrant department store chains that anchored America's once popular malls.

But the decline of the mall and the department store has hit apparel companies reliant on the wholesale model particularly hard.

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