Fortunoff Purchased by Investment Company; Expansion and IPO Eyed

Fortunoff, the famed furniture and jewelry retailer, is selling a majority stake to two private investors, Trimaran Capital Partners and Kier Group. News accounts, quoting unnamed sources, put the sale at $250 million.

A release stressed the family “will retain major equity stake and key management roles.” Newsday and the New York Post put the family’s holdings at around 25 percent. Members of the Fortunoff family declined to comment to JCK.

Dean Kehler, Trimaran managing partner, told JCK that he hoped to make Fortunoff a regional and perhaps even national retailer. It might even go public.

“We would like to expand the business over time,” he said. “They just opened their fourth store in the White Plains. In the next few years, there should be opportunities to do that in the Northeast.” He added that, if things go as planned, “it could be a wonderful public company.”

He stressed the family will remain active in the business and there should be no change in current management.

“We are not operators, we are financial investors,” he said. “Our job is to back good people that run a business and heaven knows that’s what we have here. We bought the business because it’s a wonderful business, not because we want to change it. In a lot of ways we view this as a recapitalization as much as the sale.”

The esteem Fortunoff has in its market was shown by a series of anguished comments from local shoppers in Newsday worried that the company would change. “A trip to Fortunoff is fun; and an F-Mart is the last thing Long Island needs,” said an editorial in the newspaper.

According to the New York Post, Trimarin outbid several other suitors, including Apollo, the New York buyout firm run by Leon Black.

Kehler said the company wasn’t currently looking at any other jewelry-related companies, although it does own an apparel retailer, Urban Brands.

Fortunoff has 3,300 employees. For the fiscal year ending 2003, revenues were $500 million.