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Liz Claiborne Hires Turnaround Firm Alvarez & Marsal

By Karen Talley Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES NEW YORK -(Dow Jones)- Liz Claiborne Inc. (LIZ) has hired turnaround firm Alvarez & Marsal Inc., which is handling the dismantling of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. (LEHMQ), to help the ailing women's apparel retailer repair its operations. Alvarez & Marsal, whose hiring Liz Claiborne hasn't made public, is looking into improving the retailer's working capital, and isn't preparing the company for a bankruptcy filing, said Steven Cohn, managing director at Alvarez & Marsal, who is overseeing the effort. Alvarez & Marsal is "reviewing receivables, payables, that sort of thing," Cohn said. "We're seeing if we can help them improve collections and inventories." Cohn said the assignment is expected to be "short term." Alvarez & Marsal was hired by Lehman Brothers' board of directors last September to administer the bankrupt company's estate. Bryan Marsal, the turnaround expert who founded the firm, also serves as Lehman's chief executive as the investment bank sells off its remaining assets to maximize recovery for creditors. Alvarez & Marsal's Web site says the firm specializes in turnaround management, corporate restructuring and performance improvement for companies and stakeholders. Liz Claiborne has been struggling throughout the recession because of the poor economy and its own missteps. In early August, the company posted a wider second-quarter loss on falling revenue and flat margins, and some analysts said it will be tough for Liz Claiborne to turn around its business quickly. On the heels of that loss, the company said it plans $100 million in cuts and is looking at shifting its relationships with department stores, which have been ordering less of its apparel. A recovery won't come right away; Liz still expects comparable-stores sales to drop 15% to 25% in the third quarter and the fourth quarter's performance is up in the air. Liz Claiborne executives have said the company has enough money right now and expects to continue paying down debt this year. After the second-quarter loss, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services cut its credit ratings on Liz Claiborne deeper into junk territory and warned that the apparel maker could violate certain debt covenants if it isn't successful in turning around it operations. The ratings cut from S&P came less than a week after Moody's lowered its credit rating on the owner of such brands as Lucky, Juicy Couture, Kate Spade, and the Isaac Mizrahi-designed Liz namesake line. Liz Claiborne representatives weren't immediately available for comment. -By Karen Talley, Dow Jones Newswires; karen.talley@dowjones.com; 212-416-2196

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