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Fashion Feud Erupts Into a Court Battle : Retailing: Suit names neither party, but documents point to Clothestime, Styles for Less.

June 08, 1995|GREG JOHNSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Gradually, the DeAngelo family was withdrawn from active company management.

August DeAngelo, now retired but still on the company's board, owns 395,133, or 2.8%, of the company's shares. Raymond, who on Jan. 6 resigned as chief executive, received a one-time $250,000 payment and will be paid an additional $1 million over the next two years.

Michael DeAngelo severed his ties with Clothestime in 1991, when, at age 42 he settled into retirement in a 30,000-square-foot home in Orange that once was featured on the "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" television show.

But the retirement didn't stick, and within a year, he was back in the retail game with Styles for Less, a chain that competes head-to-head with Clothestime, which sells fashion-oriented clothing to women in their late teens through mid-30s.

In recent years, most specialty retailers have been battered by a sales slump and increased competition from some of the nation's most successful retail giants, including J.C. Penney with its popular Jaclyn Smith clothing line, and Wal-Mart, which recently introduced a line featuring television celebrity Kathie Lee Gifford.

"Nothing in the current economy says that Clothestime and the other specialty retailers are going to come back really quickly," said the apparel industry analyst.

Clothestime reported a $4.4-million loss on $72.3 million in revenue for the first fiscal quarter ended April 29. Ortega recently said that a new product mix and some additions to the corporate staff should help revive sales and profit after a "disappointing and difficult" 1994.

Styles for Less, which is privately held, declined Wednesday to state sales figures or say how many stores it has.

Some of the mystery could be cleared away when the case moves into Judge Floyd H. Schenk's courtroom, Thomas said, because "even when a [plaintiff] names a 'Doe' defendant, they have to file a paper with the court identifying who it is.

"It will be interesting to see how the judge reacts," Thomas said. "There's a lot of judicial resistance to secrecy these days. Civil litigation is the public's business, and it's best carried out in an open, public courtroom."

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