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Eddie Bauer CEO quits after buyout rejected

The chief executive of struggling clothing retailer Eddie Bauer resigned Friday, a day after shareholders rejected the company’s proposed sale to two private equity firms. Fabian Mansson served as president and CEO for more than four years.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The chief executive of struggling clothing retailer Eddie Bauer resigned Friday, a day after shareholders rejected the company’s proposed sale to two private equity firms.

Fabian Mansson served as president and CEO for more than four years, the company said. The financial terms of his departure were not immediately disclosed.

Eddie Bauer Holdings Inc. said board member Howard Gross would serve as interim CEO. The company said Gross, a veteran apparel retailer, has worked as CEO of Limited Stores and Victoria’s Secret Stores.

Redmond-based Eddie Bauer has struggled for years as it tried to reach outside its core outdoor apparel line. Company officials said they would move ahead with a turnaround strategy, but the future looks uncertain, said Russ Jones, an analyst with Alix Partners.

“The chances of Eddie Bauer being any kind of success in the future seem very low,” Jones said. “All you need to do is look at the history of failed retailers and you see very few — and I actually can’t think of one — who’ve come back.”

On Thursday, shareholders of Eddie Bauer Holdings Inc. turned down the company’s proposed sale to a holding company owned by affiliates of Sun Capital Partners Inc., of Boca Raton, Fla., and San Francisco-based Golden Gate Capital.

The firms planned to pay $286 million in cash, or $9.25 per share, and assume $328 million in debt to take over Eddie Bauer.

Shares of Eddie Bauer rose 38 cents or 4.3 percent to close at $9.17 in trading Friday on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

Eddie Bauer began reviewing strategic alternatives in May 2006. The company recently said same-store sales, a key retail performance measure, have declined in 23 of the last 28 quarters. The company also lost about $275 million in the nine months ended Sept. 30.

The clothing retailer had previously been part of Spiegel Inc., but was spun off in 2005 as part of Spiegel’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization.