Nordstrom Suspends Plan to Take Company Private

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Family members of the board of tony retailer Nordstrom Inc. (NYSE: JWN) Monday notified the board that they have suspended exploration into taking the Seattle-based company private. Shares of Nordstrom slipped in early trading.

Members of the Nordstrom family — Company Co-Presidents Blake W. Nordstrom, Peter E. Nordstrom and Erik B. Nordstrom; President of Stores James F. Nordstrom; Chairman Emeritus Bruce A. Nordstrom; and Anne E. Gittinger — have notified Nordstrom’s Special Committee of the Board of Directors of Nordstrom about their intention to suspend the search.

The group, which owns 31% of Nordstrom shares, told the special committee that it intends to continue its efforts to explore the possibility of taking the company private after the holiday season.

Nordstrom was hoping that as a private company it could make investments into the business to help it adjust to the shifting retail environment without being punished by shareholder reaction.

CNBC reported that Nordstrom had been in talks with private equity firm Leonard Green to provide equity financing on the deal but had difficulty completing a financing package.

The track record for taking retailers private has not been good recently. Toys “R” Us, the biggest pure toy vendor, was taken private in 2005 and filed for bankruptcy protection last month. Retailers Payless Shoesource and Gymboree that were taken private also filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this year.

Nordstrom is weighing the decision of going private at a time when brick-and-mortar retailers are trying to find their footing as consumers shift their shopping habits to online. Nordstrom has fared better than most retailers because it is an aspirational brand, though sales at its full-line stores have faltered.

The special committee composed of family members was formed in June to explore the possibility of taking the company private. It is being advised by Centerview Partners as financial adviser and Sidley Austin as legal counsel.

Shares of the upscale retailer, which operates 344 stores in 40 states and has a market cap of $6.67 billion, slid 6% to $40.06 Monday morning.