Neiman Marcus Sells For $6 Billion

Two large investors — Ares Management and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board — have reached a deal to purchase upscale retailer Neiman Marcus. The two buyers will hold equal shares of Neiman, which is based in Dallas.

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And we reported yesterday that Neiman Marcus was in the final stages of closing a big deal. Now the deal is done. The upscale retailer has just made its biggest sale ever - itself. The price: $6 billion. The buyers - the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and a U.S. private equity group.

NPR's Wendy Kaufman reports.

WENDY KAUFMAN, BYLINE: Neiman Marcus is perhaps the fanciest name in U.S. retailing. Designer handbags can cost more than $1,000, men's casual jackets more than twice that and the prices in its opulent Christmas catalog are beyond compare. Still, the $6 billion price paid for the retailer is a sizeable sum.

BARBARA KAHN: One ponders whether or $6 billion is the right price and that's hard to tell.

KAUFMAN: But Barbara Kahn, a retail expert at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School says Neiman is a unique retailer with a big name in the small, but very attractive high end, high margin part of the retail market.

KAHN: And there aren't that many that hold that position and cater to that segment as well as Neiman does.

KAUFMAN: The company's 41 namesake stores along with its other retail businesses produced revenues of $4.5 in a recent 12 month period.

The sale of luxury goods cooled during the recession; but sales are coming back and Neiman's new buyers see promise in the U.S. market. Retail and turnaround consultant Michael Appel sees it, too.

MICHAEL APPEL: It's a growth opportunity both in the United States and perhaps internationally. Those customers continue to have money and spend money.

KAUFMAN: But Pam Danziger - whose Unity Marketing company tracks the buying habits of the affluent and very affluent - isn't as sanguine.

PAM DANZIGER: There's a lot of noise about growth in the market; but, I don't really see it playing out, otherwise we would see these huge revenue increases from brands like Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue and so on, and we just aren't seeing that.

KAUFMAN: Saks - by the way - was sold to Canada's Hudson Bay Company for $2.4 billion earlier this summer. And Danziger says a key driver of growth for both retailers has been their lower priced outlets - Neiman's is known as Last Call.

Wendy Kaufman, NPR News.

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