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The Bankruptcies of Eddie Bauer


Retailer Eddie Bauer has been pulling itself back from the brink of bankruptcy, the second in its 90 year history. Seattle Met magazine has a nice article on the history of the company detailing how its latest CEO Neil Fiske has been rebuilding on its outdoorsman heritage.  Eddie Bauer began as a sporting goods company with Bauer repairing tennis rackets and patenting a badminton shuttlecock. His love for fishing led to a down-filled jacket which led to a commission for the Army which led to a mail-order business that included women’s clothing created by Bauer’s wife. He sold the company in 1968 to General Mills and went back to fishing. General Mills also owned Talbots and Eddie Bauer’s women’s clothing line grew into a huge success.  General Mills cashed out in 1988, selling to Spiegel.  Things went well until Spiegel topped under the weight of defaults from the gobs of easy credit it had handed out to eager shoppers. Eddie Bauer survived its parent’s bankrupcy by taking on a huge chunk of Spiegel’s debt.  Repaying that debt took its toll on their bottom line. Neil Fiske was brought in as a CEO with vision.  Miraculously, second bankruptcy proceedings saw Eddie Bauer through the 2008-2009 downturn. It emerged from bankruptcy auction with the Spiegel debt erased and Neil Fiske still in charge courtesy of investors who believed in the progress he’d made and his passion for the brand’s history.  James Whittaker wore an Eddie Bauer parka when he become the first American to climb Mount Everest in 1963. Fiske brought in Whittaker’s nephew Peter to develop the First Ascent line to bring Eddie Bauer back to the mountains. He’s planning to retake the forest and streams too.  It’ll be a tough road.

Posted in manufacturing