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Clarity Coming for Outdoor Retail

By bob mcgee – april 3, 2017

The fate of three outdoor specialty chains, two operating under Chap. 11 bankruptcy, should be clearer by the end of the second quarter.  

Eastern Mountain Sports, along with sister retailer Bob’s Stores, could be in the hands of publicly traded, UK-based SportsDirect by the end of the month. Bankrupt Gander Mountain, which wants to sell its operation as a going concern, will be on the court auction block April 27 if suitors step forward.  

And Cabela’s, whose proposed merger with Bass Pro Shops has been delayed due to regulatory issues involving its credit card business, may be nearing a solution on the matter.  

It was learned last week that Synovus Financial, a Columbus, GA bank, is negotiating to acquire the World’s Foremost Bank business from Cabela’s. Such a transaction would be void of federal scrutiny due to Synovus’ size, and would subsequently enable the acquirer to flip Cabela’s credit card business to Capital One. These deals, should they occur, may re-ignite and accelerate Bass Pro Shop’s plans to acquire Cabela’s.

In the case of Gander, which is closing 32 unprofitable locations, a Hilco Merchant Resources and Gordon Brothers joint venture has been named the “stalking horse” bidder for the retailer. Additional qualified bids must be submitted by day’s end on April 24 with a court hearing to approve any sale scheduled for May 1.  

Eastern Outfitters, meanwhile, last week avoided the court auction route by striking a settlement with unsecured creditors that approved a “private sale” to SportsDirect that avoids the possibility of debtor insolvency. The settlement requires SportsDirect to pay stub rent payments to Bob’s and EMS landlords and prevents the unsecured creditors committee from challenging Eastern Outfitters’ liens owned by SportsDirect. Barring any objections, the private sale transaction should be approved during an April 19 court hearing.  

In a separate development last week, Robinson Outdoor Products, the Cannon Falls, MN parent of the Scentblocker brand of apparel and scent-eliminating products used in the hunting market, filed for Chap. 11 on March 28. Asian suppliers are owed the most among top unsecured creditors. It should be noted, meanwhile, that company president Scott Shultz launched a direct-to-consumer hunting brand, called Pnuma, last year.

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