Golden Gate Capital

Is Eddie Bauer still for sale?

March 11, 2014: 9:13 PM ET

Jos. A. Bank is no longer buying Eddie Bauer. So what happens now?


FORTUNE -- The Men's Wearhouse (MW) today struck a deal to acquire smaller rival Jos. A. Bank Clothiers (JOSB) for $1.8 billion, or $65 per share in cash. The agreement ends a five-month saga of bids and counter-bids between the two companies, which most observers seem to believe will be stronger together than apart.

But not everyone involved in the process is walking away with a win.

Last month, Jos. A. Bank agreed to buy retailer Eddie Bauer from private equity firm Golden Gate Capital for approximately $825 million in cash and stock. At the time, the deal was viewed as an effort to ward off unwanted advances from Men's Wearhouse -- a strategy that now seems moot. So Jos. A. Bank said that it will terminate its Eddie Bauer deal, which means that it will pay out a $48 million break-up fee.

The outstanding question is what Golden Gate plans to do with Eddie Bauer now. From what I can tell, not much.

RELATED: Jos. A. Bank's cash hoard trips up Men's Wearhouse

For starters, Golden Gate was never really letting Eddie Bauer go in the first place. Its sale agreement with Jos. A. Bank would have given Golden Gate around a 16.6% stake in the combined company and the right to name two directors. Moreover, there is a cynical argument to be made that only agreed to sell Eddie Bauer as a strategic ploy to help Jos. A. Bank gain leverage in its efforts to buy Men's Wearhouse, given that Golden Gate had previously offered to finance its takeover approach.

But, most importantly, a source familiar with the situation says that Golden Gate has no immediate plans to launch an auction process for Eddie Bauer, which it first acquired via a bankruptcy process in 2009. And then there is this formal statement from the firm:

"We of course respect the Jos. A. Bank Board's decision to enter into a negotiated transaction with Men's Wearhouse. While we believe a combination of Jos. A. Bank and Eddie Bauer offered compelling opportunities for both companies, we believe that Eddie Bauer is a very strong brand with an exceptional management team that is successfully executing on its strategic plan operating as an independent company. Golden Gate is very pleased to continue to own Eddie Bauer and excited to help the company build on its strong momentum and significant accomplishments to date."

It's also worth noting that Golden Gate raises "evergreen funds" that don't have traditional 1o-year life cycles, so it is under less pressure to sell Eddie Bauer than would be most other private equity firms in a similar situation.

RELATED: George Zimmer on being fired by Men's Wearhouse

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