Plaid deal apparently fell through

November 19, 1994|By Ross Hetrick | Ross Hetrick,Sun Staff Writer

A deal by the parent company of J. Schoeneman Inc. of Owings Mills to buy the third-largest Italian clothing and textile firm has apparently fallen through, the victim of competing bids and national pride.

Plaid Clothing Group Inc. of New York had negotiated for the last nine months to buy Gruppo Finanziaro Tessile GFT SpA for $250 million. The purchase would have created the world's largest tailored-clothing manufacturing company.

But some of the 23 banks that hold about $276 million worth of GFT's debt turned thumbs down on the deal when other bids started to surface, according to the Daily News Record, a trade newspaper that covers the menswear business.

There is also the suspicion that the Italians did not want to see a company whose stable of designers have included Giorgio Armani, Calvin Klein and Claude Montana end up in the hands of Arabs, who are the major investors in Plaid.

"One of the two major exports of Italy, after their food and wine, is their apparel," said Alan G. Millstein, editor and publisher of Fashion Network Report in New York. "So when you are dealing with one of their largest apparel manufacturers, emotions are going to complicate sound business decisions," he said.

"Quite frankly, in my opinion, they just don't want to sell one of their jewels, even though it is in disarray, to the Arabs," Mr. Millstein said.

Plaid executives did not return repeated telephone calls yesterday.

Competing bids reportedly are being floated by Mexican entrepreneur Fabio Covarrubias, who owns GFT de Mexico, and a group of investors headed by Clemente Signoroni, the former managing director of GFT, the Daily News Record said.

But Plaid is not out of the picture yet. The company is considering legal action against GFT for allegedly breaking an exclusive bidding agreement between the two companies, according to the Daily Record, a Baltimore business newspaper.

Plaid, which also owns the Palm Beach Co. of Cincinnati, has 4,600 workers and had sales last year of about $286 million.

Company officials have consistently declined to say how the purchase of GFT would affect its J. Schoeneman subsidiary, which specializes in manufacturing upscale men's suits, jackets and slacks. They are sold under such brand names as Burberry, Christian Dior and Halston. The company has about $100 million in sales.

Schoeneman itself has been undergoing dramatic changes in the last few months.

In October, it announced it would be closing its Gleneagles raincoat factory in Bel Air before the end of the year, laying off about 110 workers.

About two months earlier, Schoeneman said it would close its Owings Mills distribution center and move that work to its main factory in Chambersburg, Pa.

The action will move 55 jobs out of state. But Schoeneman said its headquarters, which employs 145 people, will stay in Baltimore County at a yet undetermined site.

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