Merry-Go-Round interviews candidates

November 13, 1994|By Jay Hancock | Jay Hancock,Sun Staff Writer

Last week Merry-Go-Round Inc.'s board of directors interviewed four to six retail executives and turnaround managers as candidates for chief executive officer of the 1,200-store chain, according to people close to the company.

Those interviewed included at least one partner in Meridian Ventures, a turnaround firm of three executives who recently completed high-profile assignments helping department store giant R.H. Macy & Co. recover from a bankruptcy filing, sources said.

xTC Meridian's partners are Thomas C. Shull, former executive vice president at Macy; James Kenney, former senior vice president of corporate planning; and Gene Rohrer, who was also a senior vice president of corporate planning for Macy.

The men, based in Hilton Head, S.C., did not return phone calls last week. Merry-Go-Round, which has said Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass will resign his CEO slot sometime this month but will continue as chairman, declined to comment Friday on its search for a new chief executive.

The board of Joppa-based Merry-Go-Round has not committed to hiring a CEO versed in "turnaround" management but is seriously considering it, said people close to the company.

Creditors have been unhappy with Merry-Go-Round's lackluster sales and $44.9 million in operating losses since it entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings in January.

The Merry-Go-Round CEO position, which would be one of the biggest corporate revival assignments lately, has attracted keen interest. "At that size turnaround, there aren't very many people around" with the necessary credentials, said Gary Brooks, of Allomet Partners Ltd. a New York turnaround consulting firm.

The identities of the other managers invited to interview for the Merry-Go-Round job were unclear. It was believed that one of the candidates is best-known not as a "crisis manager" but rather for more general retail experience.

Available turnaround firms with the expertise and reputation to take on the Merry-Go-Round CEO job, analysts and industry sources said, include:

* Buccino & Associates Inc. Headed by Gerald P. Buccino, the company has had retail turnaround jobs including Central Hardware and the Lee Ward craft chain.

Merry-Go-Round's problems "are probably no different than 20 retailers we've seen," said Jim Moran, executive vice president of the firm. He declined to say whether Mr. Buccino or anyone else at the firm is being considered for the job.

"I can't comment . . . because obviously they're in discussions with people like us," he said.

* Gilbert C. Osnos & Co. Inc. Head of a smaller firm, Mr. Osnos is former chairman of the Turnaround Management Association and "is well thought of in the New York financial community," said John M. Collard, the TMA's chairman.

* Jay Alix & Associates. Based in Southfield, Mich., Mr. Alix has worked on turnarounds at Unisys Corp., G. Heileman Brewing Co. and General Motors' National Car Rental division. Mr. Alix said through a spokeswoman last week that he is not a candidate for the Merry-Go-Round position.

* Meridian Ventures. The three Meridian partners are all graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Mr. Shull and Mr. Kenney assisted Macy in planning and took key roles in the company's merger negotiations with Federated Department Stores. They left Macy and formed Meridian in August.

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