Buyout firm Sycamore vies to take Nordstrom private, sources say

(This May 2 story has been refiled to add the dropped word ‘operator’ in paragraph 1)

By Anirban Sen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Sycamore Partners is one of the buyout equity firms that have expressed interest in taking U.S. department store operator Nordstrom private, according to people familiar with the matter.

Nordstrom said last month that CEO Erik Nordstrom and his brother Pete, the company’s president, were exploring options to take the retailer private, confirming a Reuters report that had been published in March.

Negotiations will take several weeks and there is no certainty that Sycamore, which owns regional U.S. department store operator Belk, or any other private equity suitor will reach a deal, the sources said, requesting anonymity because the matter is confidential.

Sycamore declined to comment while representatives for Nordstrom did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Nordstrom shares rose 6% to $19.90 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday on the news, giving the company a market value of about $3.3 billion. Nordstrom also had long-term debt of $2.9 billion as of the end of December.

Nordstrom and other U.S. retailers have been grappling with curbs on discretionary spending by consumers following a bout of inflation and high interest rates. Macy’s Inc, another department store operator, has also become a takeover target.

Nordstrom has more than 350 stores as well as e-commerce operations. Chief Executive Erik Nordstrom and other members of the Nordstrom family collectively own about a 30% stake in the Seattle-based company.

Nordstrom formed a special board committee in 2017 to consider a bid by the family to go private and explored a deal with several private equity firms, including Leonard Green. The special committee in 2018 turned down an $8.4-billion offer as inadequate.

Since then, Erik and Pete Nordstrom have raised their stake in the company from below 5% to 9.5%. The company has agreed to make any deal subject to approval by a majority of the unaffiliated shareholders.

New York-based Sycamore acquired Belk, which has nearly 300 Belk stores in 16 U.S. southeastern states, from members of its founding family in 2015 for $3 billion. It restructured Belk’s debt in 2021 following the downturn in the sector during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it retained majority control.

Sycamore also considered purchasing other department store operators in the past, including Kohl’s Corp.

(Reporting by Anirban Sen in New York; Additional reporting by Abigail Summerville; Editing by Greg Roumeliotis and David Gregorio)