This dramatic event, which affected the lives of employees and stockholders who gave their support to a company they could no longer be part of, offers a rare glimpse into the changing world of retailing.
In November 1985, Edward S. Finkelstein, the CEO of Macy's, shocked the business community with his proposal to buy the company that he had transformed from a down-at-the-heels department store into a glitzy profit-maker. Despite opposition from the owning Straus family, a few months later he and a group of hand-picked employees accomplished the acquisition. The deal, then the largest in history involving a retail department store, replete with mergers, fiscal machinations, and endless litigation, exposed one of the most controversial weapons in the financial world: the leveraged buyout.
From Turnarounds and Workouts, November 15, 2003
Isadore Barmash writes in his Prologue, "This book tells the story of Macy's managers and their leveraged buyout, the newest and most controversial device in the modern financial armament" when it took place in the 1980s. At the center of Barmash's story is Edward S. Finkelstein, Macy's chairman of the board and chief executive office. Sixty years old at the time, Finkelstein had worked for Macy's for thirty-five years. Looking back over his long career dedicated to the department store as he neared retirement, Finkelstein was dismayed when he realized that even with his generous stock options, he owned less than one percent of Macy's stock. In the years leading up to his unexpected, bold takeover, Finkelstein had made over Macy's from a run-of-the-mill clothing retailer into a highly profitable business in the lead of the lucrative and growing fashion and "lifestyle" field.
To aid him in accomplishing the takeover and share the rewards with him, Finkelstein had brought together more than three hundred of Macy's top executives. To gain his support for his planned takeover, Finkelstein told them, "The ones who have done the job at Macy's are the ones who ought to own Macy's." Opposing Finkelstein and his group were the Straus family who owned the lion's share of Macy's and employees and shareholders who had an emotional attachment to Macy's as it had been for generations, "Mother Macy's" as it was known. But the opponents were no match for Finkelstein's carefully laid plans and carefully cultivated alliances with the executives. At the 1985 meeting, the shareholders voted in favor of the takeover by roughly eighty percent, with less than two percent opposing it.
The takeover is dealt with largely in the opening chapter. For the most part, Barmash follows the decision making by Finkelstein, the reorganization of the national company with a number of branches, the activities of key individuals besides Finkelstein, Macy's moves in the competitive field of clothing retailing, and attempts by the new Macy's owners led by Finkelstein to build on their successful takeover by making other acquisitions. Barmash allows at the beginning that it is an "unauthorized book, written without the cooperation of the buying group." But as he quickly adds, his coverage of Macy's as a business journalist and his independent research for over a year gave him enough knowledge to write a relevant and substantive book. The reader will have no doubt of this. Barmash's narrative, profiles of individuals, and analysis of events, intentions, and consequences ring true, and have not been contradicted by individuals he writes about, subsequent events, or exposure of material not public at the time the book was written.
First published in 1989, the author places the Macy's buyout in the context of the business environment at the time: the aggressive, largely laissez-faire, Reagan era. Without being judgmental, the author describes how numerous corporations were awakened from their longtime inertia, while many individuals were feeling betrayed, losing jobs, and facing uncertain futures.
From Publishers Weekly:
New York Times reporter Barmash ( Welcome to Our Conglomerate . . . You're Fired ) here chronicles one of the more startling management/stockholder transactions in recent financial history the leveraged buyout of the R. H. Macy retailing concern by a group of company executives under Macy CEO Edward S. Finkelstein. In a lively narrative, Barmash recalls how the Strauss family owners made the department store a New York institution (with holiday fireworks and parades), yielding power eventually to modern business personalities with big ideas. There is plenty of inside information about the world of retailing and boardroom infighting, as the author describes Macy's national expansion and the rise and fall of many management types. Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal:
This breezy account of the 1985-86 leveraged buyout of the giant New York department store chain is the product of the New York Times 's business correspondent who covered the process by which Macy's became a privately held corporation. Barmash's story moves awkwardly from a biography of Macy's Chairman Edward Finkelstein to a brief history of the chain, and then to the dealings surrounding the buyout. The narrative is at times rambling and unfocused, almost as if the author had phoned in his... read more
This is a reprint of a previously published work. it is the story of Macy's managers and their leveraged buyout--then the largest in history involving a retail store.
Isadore Barmash, a veteran business journalist and author, was associated with the New York Times for more than a quarter-century as business-financial writer and editor. He also contributed many articles for national media, Reuters America, and the Nikon Keizai Shimbun of Japan. He has published 13 books, including Macy's for Sale and Welcome to Our Conglomerate-You're Fired! He is listed in the 57th edition of Who's Who in America.
Other Beard Books by Isadore Barmash: