July 8, 2009

Right Start Restart: Liberty Media Gets Into The Baby Business

right_start_restarts.jpg

This weekend in Pennsylvania, we passed a mall that had a big Right Start sign on the street, and I thought, huh. Are they actually still open? [They were not.] And then tonight I get an email from DT reader Katherine, who reports that the word around Houston is that their Right Start was getting ready to re-open. And whoa, check out that website!

Not only are Right Start stores and the webshop reopening, but the company is pledging to honor gift cards from before the bankruptcy. Good thing you held onto those! [Right?]

Who are these generous and PR-savvy new owners of one of the baby industrial complex's most frequently bankrupt companies? Uh, don't look at the headline.

That's right, Liberty Media, the cable and digital empire owned by John Freakin' Malone. Finally, Right Start and babystyle have found some seriously deep pockets in which to test their cash-burning powers.

And they have a long way to go before Liberty will feel it. According to bankruptcy filings, Liberty Interactive agreed to pay just $1.365 million for a cherry-picked list of Right Start/babystyle's assets. Making the cut: nine of the company's 33 former locations [six in CA, two in TX, and one in IL, as far as I can tell, they're all former Right Start stores]; the web operation; and all the trademarks and whatnot. [Some choice finds from among their hundreds of stockpiled domain names: celebritybaby.com, dadstyle.com, babygear.com, babyshower.com, nurseryfurniture.com, stealherlook.com (?) and etardation.com (??)]

The purchase motion was filed at the end of May and has yet to be finalized, but the nine stores began reopening last week: First was Pasadena, and then today, the Manhattan Beach, Santa Monica, and Sherman Oaks locations followed.

If I'm reading the documents properly, lawyers and advisers are claiming almost $800,000 for fees. If that comes out of Liberty's purchase price, Right Start's creditors are going to be left fighting for a few crumbs.

right_start_liberty.jpg

Meanwhile, I can't find a single news report or announcement of Liberty's plan. And yet The Right Start is already listed on Liberty's corporate site as a wholly owned subsidiary that "offer[s] moms a carefully selected assortment of the best products for their babies including travel gear, feeding, d├ęcor and toys." [... -ed.] If anyone is at Herb Allen's mogul retreat in Sun Valley right now, maybe you can corner John and ask him what the dads are supposed to do. Also, when will babystyle be making its debut as a QVC private label?

The Right Start: Our next phase begins! [rightstart.com]
Liberty Interactive:

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