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Court Allows Sale of Smith & Hawken

Bankruptcy: Parent CML Group can accept bids on the garden supplies retailer until Feb. 4.

December 31, 1998| From Bloomberg News

The parent of Smith & Hawken on Wednesday said it has received a bankruptcy judge's approval to put the upscale garden supplies retailer on the sales block.

The ruling by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Worcester, Mass., allows CML Group Inc., which also makes NordicTrack fitness equipment, to accept bids for Smith & Hawken until Feb. 4. A court-sanctioned auction will be held Feb. 11.

Acton, Mass.-based CML Group had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection earlier this month in Wilmington, Del., after slumping sales and a failed cost-cutting effort forced it into liquidation. Soon after the filing, the case was moved to the Massachusetts court, where CML's NordicTrack fitness equipment unit had filed for bankruptcy protection in November, said Mark Semer, a spokesman for CML.

The Mill Valley-based Smith & Hawken unit, which sells books, garden furniture, tools and accessories through mail order and retail stores, had about $88 million in revenue in its year ended July 31. Smith & Hawken was not included in CML's bankruptcy filing.

"Under new ownership, we believe that Smith & Hawken's management team will have greater flexibility to execute its strategic plan, including new store openings and other growth initiatives," John Pound, CML's chairman and chief executive said in a Dec. 17 statement. CML declined to comment on potential buyers.

The Smith & Hawken subsidiary has been a financial bright spot for CML, which reported a net loss of more than $127 million in fiscal 1998, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Smith & Hawken operates 34 stores throughout the country, including several around Southern California, and has plans to open a few more before the fiscal year ends July 31, Semer said. Its revenue is split roughly evenly between store sales and mail orders, according to the documents.

Smith & Hawken, which was founded in 1979, was acquired by CML in 1993.

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