Takeover Talk Boosts Prices of Retailer Stocks

Times Staff Writer

Two of the nation's biggest department store companies saw the price of their stock shoot up last week in a new round of speculation on retail takeovers.

But a business associate of shopping mall magnate Edward J. DeBartolo Sr. on Friday denied published reports that DeBartolo is accumulating stock in Federated Department Stores for a takeover run on the parent company of such well-known retailers as Bullocks, I. Magnin and Bloomingdale's.

"I know for a fact he's not buying any Federated stock," said Paul A. Bilzerian, a Tampa real estate developer who joined forces with DeBartolo in a failed bid for Allied Stores last November.

Federated, based in Cincinnati and the parent company of Ralphs supermarkets as well, saw its stock reach a 52-week high last week on the New York Stock Exchange, closing Friday at $50.375 a share, up $5.75 last week.

Meanwhile, Minneapolis-based Dayton Hudson was the 11th-most active stock last week on the Big Board. It closed Friday at $50 a share, up $3.125 during the week. Dayton Hudson owns Target, an upscale discount chain; Mervyn's, a promotional department store operation, as well as traditional department stores in the Midwest.

Avoids the Press

DeBartolo, a Youngstown, Ohio, businessman who rarely speaks to reporters, couldn't be reached for his comment on a report in Friday's issue of USA Today speculating on his interest in Federated, the nation's largest department store chain. But a spokesman for his privately held company, DeBartolo Corp., said the firm itself hasn't acquired stock in the Cincinnati-based chain. A spokesman had earlier disavowed any DeBartolo interest in Dayton Hudson.

Bilzerian said that DeBartolo has a full investment plate at the moment, having just spent $200 million on half-interests in five shopping centers previously owned by Allied Stores and another $150 million on other investments.

So even though DeBartolo would like to own a large retailer to ensure a major tenant for his future shopping malls, Bilzerian said: "He hasn't looked at any major retailers since Carter Hawley Hale . . . and I doubt seriously he would do (another) unsolicited takeover."

DeBartolo teamed up with the Limited's Leslie H. Wexner last year in an unsuccessful bid for Carter Hawley Hale, which owns the Neiman-Marcus and Broadway chains among others.

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