June 2, 2011

"Distressed investor" makes bid for half of Borders


Late last night a Wall Street Journal report by Mike Spector and Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg broke the news that a private-equity firm from Los Angeles called the Gores Group “is in discussions to purchase more than half of Borders Group Inc.‘s remaining stores out of bankruptcy … in a deal that would keep the bookstore chain operating as a going concern.”

Citing “people familiar with the matter,” the report says “Gores is in discussions to buy more than 200 of Borders’ 405 remaining stores,” and that the “stores and other assets could fetch roughly $200 million or so ….” Not buying all the remaining stores would allow Gores to “to better control their risk, and could also enable them to focus more attention to online commerce.”

So who is Gores? According to Spector and Trachtenberg, the company “is known as a distressed investor, scooping up stakes in ailing companies and trying to rehabilitate them. It currently owns stakes in companies ranging from radio operator Westwood One to Alliance Entertainment, a wholesale distributor of CDs and DVDs.”

And apparently, it’s not the only company suddenly interested in Borders: “Other suitors, whose identities couldn’t be learned, are also in discussions with Borders, these people said. Interest in Borders has picked up since Liberty Media Corp.’s recent bid for Barnes & Nobel, which valued that chain at roughly $1 billion ….”

All of which is coming not a moment too soon for Borders. As Jim Milliot reports in a Publishers Weekly story, the company plead with US Bankruptcy Court Judge Martin Glenn yesterday to ignore demands by its Creditors’ Committee that the judge deny Borders’ request for “an extension for an exclusive period to develop its reorganization plan.” The Creditors’ Committee, made up mostly of publishers, argued that Borders has had plenty of time to present its plan, and meanwhile it lost $132 million in April alone. (Borders owes New York’s Big Six publishers $182 million.)

The judge rules on that today.

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives