It is a small deal but one that has the potential to change the image of Sears Holdings (SHLD) in home furnishings.
In a filing with the SEC (below), Sears said it acquired 5.31 million shares for about $30.2 million in cash of Restoration Hardware (RSTO).
Restoration Hardware, is a specialty retailer of hardware, bathware, furniture, lighting, textiles, accessories and gifts. The Company operated 103 stores and eight outlet stores in 30 states, the District of Columbia and Canada as of February 3, 2007. In addition to its retail stores, Restoration Hardware, Inc. operates a direct-to-customer (direct) sales channel, which includes both catalog and Internet, and a wholly owned furniture manufacturer. The Company is a multi-channel business and its catalog distribution drives sales across Restoration Hardware's retail, catalog and Internet businesses. The Company uses its catalog as the primary marketing vehicle, marketing to new customers and return customers, both in and outside the retail trade area.
From the SEC Filing:
"In June 2007, on behalf of Sears Holdings, the Chairman of Sears Holdings and another member of the Board of Directors of Sears Holdings approached a non-management director of the Issuer to inquire as to his views concerning a possible business combination or other strategic transaction involving the Issuer and Sears Holdings. This director advised Sears Holdings to contact the Chief Executive Officer of the Issuer. Following this conversation, the Chairman of Sears Holdings spoke with the Chief Executive Officer of the Issuer and discussed the potential benefits of a business or strategic combination between Sears Holdings and the Issuer. After that conversation, the Chairman of Sears Holdings spoke to the non-management director of the Issuer with whom he had previously spoken and this director suggested that the Chairman of Sears Holdings continue speaking with the Chief Executive Officer of the Issuer.
Shortly thereafter, the Chairman of Sears Holdings requested an opportunity to meet in person with the Chief Executive Officer of the Issuer to discuss the benefits of a transaction involving the Issuer and Sears Holdings. Due to scheduling conflicts, the Chairman of Sears Holdings and the Chief Executive Officer of the Issuer did not meet during the summer. In early October, the Chairman of Sears Holdings, the President of Sears Holdings’ Lands’ End business and a non-management member of Sears Holdings’ Board of Directors had a meeting with the Chief Executive Officer of the Issuer. Sears Holdings did not enter into a confidentiality agreement or receive non-public information about the Issuer or its business in connection with these discussions, and no price or terms of any transaction were solicited by the Issuer nor proposed by Sears Holdings.
In late October, in a conversation with the Chairman of Sears Holdings, the Chief Executive Officer of the Issuer informed Sears Holdings for the first time that the Issuer was considering a potential management buyout transaction and that a Special Committee of the Board had been established. After being informed of this development, Sears Holdings sent a letter to Raymond C. Hemmig, chairman of the Special Committee of the Board of Directors of the Issuer, proposing a transaction at $4.00 per Share (a 39% premium to the Shares’ closing price of $2.87 on the last trading day prior to Sears Holdings making its proposal) and informing him of Sears Holdings’ potential to increase the offer as a result of information gained from a due diligence process. Mr. Hemmig later responded by e-mail that the Special Committee was not prepared to have Sears Holdings engage with the Issuer’s management team and advisers in due diligence on the proposed terms and indicated that in order to have the opportunity to engage in due diligence Sears Holdings should revise its proposal to offer a substantially higher price.
On November 8, 2007, the Company announced it had entered into an Agreement and Plan of Merger (the “Home Merger Agreement”) with Home Holdings, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company, and Home Merger Sub, Inc., a Delaware corporation and a wholly owned subsidiary of Home Holdings, LLC.
Sears Holdings is seeking to obtain from the Issuer certain non-public information concerning the Issuer, as permitted by the Home Merger Agreement, and has indicated that it would enter into a confidentiality agreement in order to do so. Sears Holdings and the Issuer have discussed the terms of such a confidentiality agreement. There can be no assurance that Sears Holdings will enter into a confidentiality agreement or will receive any such information from the Issuer.
Sears Holdings intends to evaluate the Issuer and the desirability of proposing an acquisition of the Issuer and it also intends to review its holdings of Shares on a continuing basis and in that connection expects to consider various factors including, without limitation, the current and anticipated future trading price levels of the Shares, the status of the transactions contemplated by the Home Merger Agreement, the financial condition, results of operations and prospects of the Issuer, tax considerations, any non-public information which it may receive from the Issuer, conditions in the home furnishings industry and securities markets, general economic and industry conditions, other investment and business opportunities available to Sears Holdings, and other factors that Sears Holdings may deem relevant, and will in the future take such actions with respect to Sears Holdings investment in Issuer as it deems appropriate.
Such actions that Sears Holdings may take include, without limitation: (a) undertaking an extraordinary corporate transaction such as a tender offer or exchange offer for some or all of the Shares or a merger, consolidation, other business combination or reorganization involving Issuer; (b) increasing or decreasing its position in the Issuer through, among other things, the purchase or sale of Shares in open market or private transactions for cash or for other consideration; (c) seeking to acquire or influence control of the Issuer, including seeking representation on the board of the Issuer; (d) entering into derivative transactions, engaging in short selling of or any hedging or similar transactions with respect to the Shares; or (e) taking any other action similar to those listed above. Any open market or privately negotiated purchases, sales, distributions or other transactions may be made at any time without further prior notice."
Why will this acquisition matter? RSTO is a very successful high end catalog retailer like, ummmm.... Land's End!! We know Land's End is the future of Sears Holdings retail and Sears will be able to market RSTO's merchandise both in the Land's End catalog AND in the new Land's End stores (200+ to date). Restoration saw sales increase 40% in FY 2007 vs FY 2006 and the ability of Sears to seamlessly merge its merchandise into their existing operation will cause the segments sales to explode AND give more people a reason to look at Sears for products.