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Secaucus-based Ashley Stewart files for bankruptcy, will close 27 stores

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Ashley Stewart has chosen Clearlake Capital Group as its stalking horse bidder in the company’s forthcoming auction for the sale of its assets and liabilities which, according to the company’s latest bankruptcy filing, total between $10 million and $50 million each.

Clearlake Capital Group, a Los Angeles-based private equity firm, will provide Ashley Stewart with growth capital for its newly-refocused merchandizing and digital strategies, significantly preserving jobs for approximately 1,750 full-time and part-time employees nationwide.

In addition, a new senior management team led by interim President James Rhee will attempt to reinvent the brand and make it profitable once more.

Michael Abate, senior vice president of finance, treasurer and secretary for Ashley Stewart, said in a recent news release that “the plus-size market is poised for increased growth and the Ashley Stewart shopper is in the prized 25 to 55 age demographic, when women are at the height of their earning power.”

Still, for the second time in four years, Ashley Stewart filed a voluntary petition for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in Newark earlier this month. The company will close 27 stores over the next few months in order to streamline costs. Despite having nine stores in New Jersey, the only location that is expected to close will be in the Cherry Hill Mall.

The brand’s profits had declined steadily throughout 2012 and 2013 due to competitive pressure from department stores—a decline further worsened by Superstorm Sandy and recent winter weather conditions.

Ashley Stewart has offered fashion-forward clothing for curvy women since the early 1990s. Headquartered in Secaucus, Ashley Stewart has stores across 24 states in 168 locations, including Washington D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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Meg Fry

Meg Fry

Meg Fry covers manufacturing and retail. Meg joins NJBIZ with past production experience in the arts, film and television. She continues to write and market her own spec scripts and screenplays. You can contact her at megf@njbiz.com or @MegFry3 on Twitter.

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