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Last-Minute Bid Keeps J. Peterman Intact

BRIEFLY: RETAILING

March 06, 1999|Times Staff and Wire Services

Catalog retailer J. Peterman Co. was saved in a last-minute deal at a liquidation auction and will remain in business. The winning $10-million bid came from Paul Harris Stores Co., a women's apparel retailer that plans to move forward with a plan to expand Peterman's retail operation. The news caught employees of Peterman's only full-price store in Southern California by surprise. "We just really don't know what it means to us," said Leila Kaufman, manager of the J. Peterman Newport Beach's posh Fashion Island center. "We were resigned to the fact that we'd all be doing something else soon." Kaufman said that unlike other Peterman operations, her store has not had to lay off any of its 14 employees since the chain filed for bankruptcy. "Our customers have been very supportive, and no one has quit, so we're all still here," she said. She's worried, though, about the prospects under Harris. "Supposedly, their biggest competitor is Lane Bryant, and that's pretty downscale" compared to Peterman. Schottenstein Bernstein Capital Group, which had offered $8.8 million to liquidate Peterman, dropped out once the bidding reached $10 million. Founder John Peterman had spent the last 10 days preparing to dismantle his Lexington, Ky.-based company after failing to find a buyer to rescue it from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. All Peterman employees who were laid off will be brought back by Paul Harris, Peterman said.

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