Retail’s creditors left grasping as brands move out of reach

by MR Magazine Staff

For shoppers, J. Crew and Claire’s are well-known places to pick up preppy clothes or trendy earrings. For creditors of these struggling companies, the real deal is who gets to own the brands. Lenders count on the drawing power of such instantly recognizable names, the “intellectual property,” to provide some value in case a company goes bust. Otherwise, they’d be stuck with a bunch of nameless stores selling anonymous argyle sweaters and tween bangles. That’s the concern as retailers such as J. Crew Group Inc. and Claire’s Stores Inc. create subsidiaries to hold brands, trademarks, processes and web domains. These units enable companies to insulate assets from creditors while potentially using them as collateral to back new debts. With retailers now dominating lists of troubled issuers, lenders and consultants such as Covenant Review are warily speculating about who’ll be next to “pull a J. Crew.” “When we look at it and say, ‘Oh boy, they could really get some assets stripped out,’ we tend to stay away,” said Jeff Peskind, who oversees a $1.4 billion distressed-debt fund as chief investment officer of Phoenix Investment Adviser LLC. “Some of these companies are in such dire financial straits that they’ll do just about anything they can to try to stay alive for another couple months.” Read more at Bloomberg.