Eddie Bauer has hired investment banks Guggenheim Partners LLC and Financo LLC to explore strategic alternatives, unnamed sources told Reuters Friday. A request for comment to Eddie Bauer from Retail Dive weren’t immediately returned. Owner Golden Gate Capital declined to comment to Retail Dive.
The struggling outdoor apparel retailer is also seeking relief from a $225 million term loan due in 2020 and $200 million revolving credit line that comes due in 2019, according to the report.
Early in 2014, Eddie Bauer came close to being acquired by menswear company Jos. A Bank, inking a deal widely seen as a chess move in Jos. A Bank’s tussle with Men’s Wearhouse. The latter did ultimately buy the discount suit company, paying Eddie Bauer a break-up fee instead of moving forward with a takeover.
Eddie Bauer himself over the years turned to a variety of owners to help keep afloat his business, which he launched as a single hunting and fishing gear store in Seattle in 1920. His first such move was to transfer shares to a hunting buddy in 1945.
The outdoor-themed retailer has since spent most of the 21st century burdened with debt, surviving two trips to bankruptcy court, one in 2003 and again in 2009. Then-parent Spiegel Inc. sought Chapter 11 protection in 2003 after eroding sales and credit card defaults led to debts of $1.7 billion.
The company eventually sold its signature Spiegel direct marketing catalog and other assets, except for Eddie Bauer. In May 2005, Spiegel emerged from bankruptcy under the name Eddie Bauer Holdings, a reorganization that renowned U.S. bankruptcy Judge Burton Lifland called “almost a perfect poster child of what Chapter 11 is designed to be."
But Eddie Bauer Holdings itself filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June 2009. Then-CEO Neil Fiske blamed its "crushing" debt burden. In order to emerge from the Spiegel bankruptcy, the company assumed $300 million in debt along with Spiegel’s pension and retirement benefits. Eddie Bauer Holdings also suffered as the recession curtailed consumer spending. Private equity firm Golden Gate Capital ultimately acquired the company at auction for $286 million.
Currently Eddie Bauer operates close to 375 stores across the U.S. and Canada, as well as online and wholesale businesses.