Lamonts buyout wins OK

Posted: Tuesday, May 16, 2000

ANCHORAGE - Another company wants to buy Lamonts Apparel Inc. but hasn't decided whether it would keep all of the struggling chain's stores open.

Oregon-based Troutman Investment submitted a bid last week in federal Bankruptcy Court in Seattle to buy Lamonts' 38 stores. That includes seven stores in Alaska.

Troutman co-filed with Alamo Group, a California real estate company. The companies are proposing to change some of the Lamonts stores to Troutman's Emporium and sell others to The Bon Marche, an upscale department store chain based in Seattle, said Al Smith, a lawyer for Alamo.

But some of the stores could close and the Alamo Group is trying to find retailers to take them over, Smith said.

The Troutman-Alamo solicitation came about three weeks after Lamonts agreed to sell its stores to Gottschalks Inc. in a deal that could keep the stores open. Gottschalks is a California-based department store chain with 62 stores.

Lamonts is hoping the judge awards the bid to Gottschalks, Lamonts spokeswoman Rivian Bell told the Anchorage Daily News.

``Gottschalks has agreed to keep all of the employees and take over the store leases,'' Bell said. ``With Alamo Group and Troutman, they've said they won't know whether they will assume or reject the leases until December.''

Kirkland, Wash.-based Lamonts has been on the verge of bankruptcy for the past five years as its sales have fallen during the turbulent retail era of Wal-Mart and aging shopping centers.

Lamonts filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1995 and emerged three years later.

Lamonts experienced cash-flow trouble last year brought on by slipping summer sales, preparation for the 2000 computer glitch and installing new cash registers.

Lamonts in January filed again for protection in federal Bankruptcy Court.

As of Monday afternoon, Gottschalks was offering Lamonts $21.8 million for its stores, or $2.8 million more than its original bid, Bell said.

Troutman Investment's offer was $22.3 million, Smith said.

A federal judge is expected to decide which company will buy Lamonts.

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