Wickes Will Sell Furniture Chain, Sources Say

Times Staff Writer

Wickes Furniture, a retail chain owned by Wickes Cos. of Santa Monica, is being sold to a group including the retailer's management and a company that specializes in selling companies to employees, reliable sources said Monday.

The price will be between $150 million and $200 million, the sources said.

Since buying Wickes Cos. last December for $538.9 million, a New York partnership formed by the investment firms of Wasserstein, Perella & Co. and Blackstone Group has been looking for buyers for the retailing portions of the conglomerate.

The sources said deals are expected to be announced soon for the sales of Builders Emporium and Orchard Supply Hardware. There has been "a substantial amount of interest in both," one source said, adding that the deal possibly would include Japanese or other foreign buyers.

Earlier, Wickes Cos. sold its credit card subsidiary for about $300 million to a corporation founded by two company executives.

John A. Klein, president of Wickes Furniture, is participating in the purchase and is expected to remain in his post, as are other members of management. The other big investor is Kelso & Co., a firm that specializes in setting up employee stock ownership plans, often after a leveraged buyout of a company.

Founder Louis Kelso, a San Francisco investment banker, has helped create some form of employee ownership and profit sharing at more than 8,000 companies.

Wickes Furniture, started in Fridley, Minn., in 1971, operates 23 retail outlets and two clearance stores in Chicago, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Minnesota, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles, where it has seven locations. The company, which operates out of offices in Wheeling, Ill., plans to open a 24th retail store in Oxnard in September.

As part of the deal, the Wasserstein-Blackstone partnership will retain ownership of some of Wickes Furniture's real estate and lease the land back to the new owners.

The partnership has been seeking to unload Wickes' non-manufacturing operations.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World