Target Counting Down: Sale of Field’s, Mervyn’s Seen by Fall

Target Corp’s. cfo promised shareholders a “definite announcement” about the sale of Marshall Field’s and Mervyns within 60 to 90 days.

MINNEAPOLIS — Target Corp. said it expects to complete the disposals of Marshall Field’s and Mervyn’s by September.

At its annual meeting, held Wednesday at the Art Institute here, chief financial officer Douglas Scovanner promised a “definite announcement about both businesses” within 60 to 90 days. He said the company is in the process of qualifying “interested retailers and others” with whom they will share financial specifics.

But the pending sales didn’t meet with universal approval from some nostalgic Target shareholders who questioned the rationale for the sale of Marshall Field’s.

Meanwhile, in New York, analysts and consultants threw a few names in the ring of parties who would be interested in taking the two businesses off of Target’s hands.

It has been widely expected within the analyst community that May Co. or Federated Department Stores, which said it was exploring the acquisition, will pick up Field’s and that Mervyn’s may be broken up for its real estate. However, in a research note issued Tuesday, A.G. Edwards analyst Robert Buchanan said market sources indicated a group led by publicly traded investment firm Apollo Group, including former Macy’s East ceo Hal Kahn, may be interested in buying and operating Mervyn’s.

Kahn firmly denied any involvement with Mervyn’s or Apollo. “There is absolutely no truth to this whatsoever, and I would think that a quality analyst like Robert Buchanan would do more due diligence before he spreads rumors and at the very least check with me,” said Kahn. “Other than a 20-minute conversation with Apollo when I told them I was not interested in Mervyn’s, I have had no involvement — zero — with Apollo on Mervyn’s or any other ventures.”

Alan Schlesinger, the former ceo of Filene’s Basement and Lamont’s and currently a consultant, is said to be involved with Apollo on pursuing Mervyn’s. “I can’t confirm or deny it,” he said Wednesday.

There was also another report that Robert DiNicola, the retired chairman and ceo of Zale Corp., may be involved in pursuing Mervyn’s. DiNicola could not be reached for comment.

At the annual meeting, Target is acting as if it has already washed its hands of its lagging divisions. Neither Marshall Field’s president Linda Ahlers nor Mervyn’s president Diane Neil took their customary places on stage during the shareholder meeting, and neither offered a second-quarter outlook on the company’s first-quarter conference call May 13.
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