14559 Thu, 05/29/2008 - 3:18pm
By Barbara Thau
NEW YORK–Michael Gries, the interim chief executive officer and chief restructuring officer of bankrupt Linens ’n Things, is no merchant.
He’s a restructuring executive with an accounting background, whose specialty is examining the operations of troubled companies to hash out a viable financial plan, sources said.
Conway, Del Genio Gries & Co., the firm he co-founded, has been enlisted by companies ranging from The Sharper Image and Dan River to Kasper, the apparel manufacturer, to help restore their financial health.
Prior to founding Conway, Del Genio Gries & Co., Gries was a partner and director of the Northeast restructuring and reorganization practice of Ernst & Young LLP.
“He has a wealth of experience in a variety of industries, including a fair amount of work in the retail and consumer space,” said Mary Ann Domuracki, director of restructuring for Financo, the boutique investment firm Linens hired as its financial advisers just prior to the filing, which is now working with Gries.
Domuracki also worked with Gries a decade ago during her tenure at Conway, Del Genio Gries & Co.
Gries brings “a very clear, independent voice and view about a company’s opportunities—a non-biased opinion that is good for all parties, not just shareholders but debt holders, vendors and employees,” she said.
Domuracki worked with Gries on the Kasper account when the apparel vendor had just emerged from bankruptcy.
“The work there was to determine the company’s growth prospects, and how it could improve its earnings,” she said. Kasper ended up buying Anne Klein.
Gries’ firm was enlisted by troubled retailer The Sharper Image, which filed for bankruptcy in February.
The specialty merchant “was in the need of a retail restructuring service to get the company up to speed,” a source familiar with Sharper Image’s troubles said. The Sharper Image would have benefited from a company that understood the operational nuances of a retailer along the lines of consulting firm Kurt Salmon Associates, the source said.
Gries’ firm, with its financial bent, was brought on to find a suitor to run the ongoing business, “but they were no more successful than Sharper Image was” in that pursuit, which was under way before Conway, Del Genio Gries & Co. was hired by the beleaguered chain, he said.
The Sharper Image is now up for sale and is in search of a buyer.
In the case of Linens ’n Things, Gries is “working on crisis management,” while Financo is looking for a potential investor or buyer for the retailer, Gilbert Harrison, founder and chairman of Financo, told HFN. “We continue to believe there is significant value in the Linens ’n Things franchise,” he said.
Gries is also working on crafting a sound business model for the chain in the current economic environment.
“He’s looking at [Linens’] balance sheet [and examining] ‘what does it take for their operation to become profitable,’ ” Domuracki said.