Misjudging Macy's financial health, Finkelstein entered into an unsuccessful bidding war with Toronto developer Campeau for Federated Department Stores. But he got a "consolation" prize in the form of Bullock's, Bullocks Wilshire and I. Magnin--high-profile chains that suddenly gave Macy's a huge stake in Southern California. The downside was that the purchase strapped Macy's with an additional billion dollars in debt just as the economy was beginning to founder in earnest.
As Macy's losses mounted and speculation that the company was in trouble heated up in recent years, Finkelstein waged a one-man crusade to restore confidence. Known for taking media coverage personally and holding grudges against reporters, Finkelstein went so far as to place a full-page ad in the Women's Wear Daily trade publication, criticizing "outrageous statements by so-called experts."
Indeed, it seems that Finkelstein himself could not quite believe how bad things were. As recently as Jan. 11, as the company was being forced to postpone payments to vendors, he was publicly denying that it would have to seek Chapter 11 protection.
Although many observers say Finkelstein's woes are an example of pride going before the fall, several longtime Macy's suppliers reached Monday said they still feel a great deal of loyalty to Finkelstein.
"Last Friday . . . I shipped (to Macy's) knowing I was shipping into a Chapter 11," said Konheim of Nicole Miller.
Whether all vendors will be so understanding is unclear. And whether Finkelstein will continue to engender loyalty in his employees is another question.
"He has a conscience," said Walter F. Loeb, a retailing consultant in New York. "Taking so many people (with him in the buyout) and not being able to save their investment will stick with him the rest of his life."