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Private Equity Triage: If you don't like what a private equity firm did to your company, buy it back.


Here’s one of the more radical ways to deal with a private equity deal that has gone bad:

The sons of the founder of defunct retailer Mervyns, Mervin Morris, have purchased the retailer’s name and all its Internet-related intellectual properties. They’re considering reopening locations of the discount department store their father opened nearly 60 years ago in San Lorenzo, Calif.

Target sold Mervyns for $1.2 billion to a group of private equity titans in 2004 —- Sun Capital Partners Inc., Cerberus Capital Management L.P., and Lubert-Adler. But the company was liquidated last year after the firms stripped it of real estate assets, nearly doubled its rent, and saddled it with $800 million in debt while sucking out more than $400 million in cash for themselves, according to the company.

Mervyns’ founder was so upset, he wrote to BusinessWeek that he felt the private equity firms were responsible for the “rape” of Mervyns. For their part, the one private equity firm willing to comment on the record— Sun Capital—- pointed out that when it bought Mervyns the company was struggling. “Financial headwinds and the challenging retail environment proved insurmountable,” Sun said in a statement.

It will be interesting to see if the sons of Mervin Morris will be able to resurrect the department store that the private equity firms could not.


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