CHICAGO, JAN. 21 -- Montgomery Ward & Co., the revitalized 115-year-old department store chain, may be put up for sale, its parent company said today.
Potential transactions reportedly include a leveraged buyout by Ward's top managers, analysts said.
Mobil Corp., which bought Ward in 1976, said today it has received a number of inquiries from potential investors about the possible sale of the 300-store chain, which is on the rise after years of decline.
"Mobil has provided information to a number of these potential investors and is working with them to determine the extent of their interests," the company said in a statement. "Montgomery Ward management has indicated it will cooperate ... and is also interested in becoming an investor in Montgomery Ward."
Reports have surfaced that Ward Chairman Bernard Brennan and other company managers had submitted a bid for a leveraged buyout of the nation's eighth largest general retailer, The New York Times reported in today's editions. The Times said the bid was estimated at more than $1 billion.
In a leveraged buyout, investors borrow heavily to buy out a company and then pay off the debt with the company's cash flow or the sale of assets.
It has long been thought that Mobil wanted to sell the Chicago-based department store chain, which has become attractive recently after having lost money in the early 1980s, said George Gaspar, an oil analyst with the Robert W. Baird investment firm in Milwaukee.
"The progress that Montgomery Ward has made in the last three years is outstanding," he said. "This is the time to sell it."
The sale would allow Mobil to concentrate on making an acquisition in the oil business, he said.
"We're into a critical drawdown in domestic oil reserves," Gaspar said. "The level of new discovery oil is considerably below the production rate and it's affecting all companies, regardless of size.