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Nordstrom family suspends effort to take retailer private

| Monday, Oct. 16, 2017, 4:36 p.m.
Shoppers come and go from Nordstrom's flagship store in downtown Seattle. Nordstrom says it’s temporarily halting an exploration into taking the company private. The retailer said that a group that includes several members of the Nordstrom family plans to resume looking into a possible deal after the holiday season ends.
Shoppers come and go from Nordstrom's flagship store in downtown Seattle. Nordstrom says it’s temporarily halting an exploration into taking the company private. The retailer said that a group that includes several members of the Nordstrom family plans to resume looking into a possible deal after the holiday season ends.

Nordstrom family members have suspended their effort to put together a buyout offer for the Seattle-based retailer, citing “the difficulty of obtaining debt financing in the current retail environment prior to the conclusion of the approaching holiday season.”

Led by Bruce Nordstrom, the group disclosed in June its plan to take the company private by buying out the publicly traded shares.

While the group owns 31.3 percent of Nordstrom's shares, such a move would require billions in additional financing, most likely in the form of debt. The suspended effort was disclosed in a regulatory filing Monday.

In recent weeks reports have said the Nordstrom group had been in discussions with private equity firms that might have supplied some of the funding.

But widespread financial troubles in the retail sector have made potential lenders skittish about funding big retail deals. The New York Post, which reported Oct. 2 that the family group's hunt for financing was running into trouble, cited the September bankruptcy of Toys R Us as the latest example.

A special committee of Nordstrom board members formed to consider any offer from the company said early Monday it's been told the family group “intends to continue its efforts to explore the possibility of making a going private proposal after the conclusion of the holiday season.”

“In the meantime, the company and its employees will remain focused on running the business and delivering the best shopping experience for customers,” the committee said.

Nordstrom shares were down 3.5 percent in early trading Monday, falling $1.51 to $41.14.

The crucial holiday season can make or break a retailer's year. Negotiating a buyout during that period could be more difficult in part because Nordstrom family members — who include company co-presidents and brothers Erik, Peter and Blake — would have access to non-public information about how the retailer is doing in this decisive quarter.

Also, if the company's turnaround efforts show progress during the holidays, it might be easier in 2018 to persuade lenders to risk billions on the buyout.

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