- Things aren't calming down between Neiman Marcus and its lenders. Marble Ridge, which filed a lawsuit against the retailer in early December, on Wednesday filed an anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) motion to dismiss Neiman Marcus' counterclaims for alleged damages resulting from "a series of false public statements accusing the company of being in default under its agreements with its debtholders."
- "The entire purpose of the Counterclaims is to attempt to bully, intimidate, and silence Marble Ridge and to chill other stakeholders of Neiman from criticizing the Neiman Defendants, Ares Management … and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board," according to Marble Ridge's motion, which also defends its right to free speech as a matter of public concern. The document was emailed to Retail Dive.
- Marble Ridge demanded Neiman Marcus Group's Board of Directors drop counterclaims to its lawsuit by Dec. 28. But in a statement emailed to Retail Dive last week, Neiman Marcus said it stands by its claims against Marble Ridge.
Marble Ridge has been a vocal adversary against the company's insistence that it has ample runway to address its debt. By filing this suit, Marble Ridge is leveraging Texas' anti-SLAPP law, which resembles others that have proliferated in the last few decades nationwide. Such laws help wring quick dismissal of a lawsuit that runs afoul of the First Amendment in the guise of protecting a business or reputation.
It's the latest move in a long trajectory. As talks eroded with lenders late last year, Debtwire first reported that Neiman Marcus may face additional litigation within the next month. Neiman Marcus has not given an updated timeline on when talks with lenders regarding a refinance of its debt might resume. In response to Marble Ridge's uproar, Neiman Marcus in turn slapped the company with a countersuit in December that reaffirmed the company's financial stability, adding that it just completed its fifth consecutive quarter of positive sales, and that the company has $620 million in liquidity and time to refinance its debt.
The tit-for-tat litigation stems from Neiman Marcus' summer transfer of its MyTheresa e-commerce unit. In a series of letters submitted to Neiman beginning in September, Marble Ridge said it believed the "asset transfer was an attempt to move the business beyond the reach of existing creditors." As tensions escalated, it later decried the asset transfer as "deceptive and misleading conduct."
MyTheresa, which Neiman Marcus bought in 2014, was previously included in the retailer's digital sales figures, and made up a significant portion of its growth. It's also seen as one of its most valuable assets. Neiman Marcus' sales are slowly growing quarter after quarter, but it still landed on Retail Dive's bankruptcy watch list last year. That said, some experts including Debtwire Analyst Philip Emma say the company is in no immediate financial danger. It is, however, moving into increasingly hot water with testy lenders, which could affect the timeline to refinance its debt.
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated Marble Ridge Capital's Neiman Marcus debt holdings. Retail Dive regrets the error.