February 3, 2009

Use Up Your Gift Cards Right Quick: Right Start Files For Chapter 11

Well, it seems to be official: the blog Strollerinfo is reporting that Right Start, the baby retailer who bought babystyle out of its own bankruptcy last Spring, has filed for chapter 11 protection itself. Sure enough, I just saw the filing in the US Bankruptcy Court's Central California District. Woodland Hills Office.

The company is supposedly seeking a buyer, and is telling its employees that it's "business as usual" until...well, I personally can't imagine buying a chain of retail stores in this economic climate, but who knows, they might be a great deal?

Meanwhile, if I had store credit or gift cards from either Right Start or babystyle, I'd get my butt into a store pronto and use it up. The web storefronts are already out of commission.

It's a huge bummer for folks who work in the stores, of course--remember, all the executives were let go a couple of weeks ago--but if anyone knows how to go bankrupt, it's Right Start. That company has been through more bankruptcies and reorganizations than I can count. But I'll try, in a company timeline after the jump.

Previously, 1/23: Right Start Full Stop?

1985: Right Start founded as a baby gear catalog.

1993: Opens first Right Start retail locations.

August 2001: Right Start, which has 69 stores, acquires Zany Brainy, King of Prussia, PA-based toy retailer with 187 stores, which had declared bankruptcy in May 2001 after losing $20 million on their web startup and after spending $20 million more than planned acquiring the 60-store chain Noodle Kidoodle. Price: around $115 million, including $11.7 mm in cash and $85 million assumed debt. [Source: LAT]

November 2001: Right Start acquires FAO Schwarz brand and 22 retail locations for between $60 and $80 million, announces plans to close 18 of those FAO stores. [source: LAT]

March 2002: Right Start changes its name to FAO, Inc., and moves its headquarters from Calabasas, CA to King of Prussia. [LAT

January 2003: FAO/Right Start/Zany Brainy/Noodle Kidoodle files for Ch. 11 bankruptcy, announces it will close 70 of its 260 or so stores. The FAO acquisition is pegged at $55 million. [CBS]

December 2003: FAO files for Chapter 11 again, makes plans to sell off all the inventory of 15 FAO Schwarz stores [All the strollers were 20% off, but the Bugaboos sold out in like two days. They only ever had red. -ed.] Court sets a two week deadline for the 89 Zany Brainy stores and 38 Right Start stores to secure financing. That makes 143 stores, or more than 120 fewer than they had at the beginning of the year. [DSN Retailer]

December 25, 2003: Zany Brainy liquidates, FAO spins off Right Start and 34 retail locations to current owners, Hancock Park, a private equity firm in LA, who had participated in a $30 million investment during the earlier bankruptcy. [LAT]

January 2004: Hancock Park moves Right Start HQ back to Calabasas, announces plans to make the company "a 70-to-100 unit chain in a three-to-five year time period." [allbusiness.com]

June 2008: Right Start buys babystyle and cadeau assets out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy for around $5.5 million, adding 11 remaining babystyle stores to Right Start's 33. [DT]

December 2008: Writing's on the wall? Mike Edwards, a retail executive from Portland, was announced as the new President of Right Start [bizjournals]

January 2009 But less than a month later, and a week before the Right Start corporate bloodletting, Edwards is announced as the CEO of another company. Well, you know the rest. [bizjournals]

January 2009: Bonus updates from the losers' bracket: here's an awesome flashback from 1999, when Noodle Kidoodle opened on the Upper West Side. A nice slice of unironic yuppie parenting.

Also, ZanyBrainy.com currently points to NoodleKidoodle.com, which is basically a pass-through site full of links to etoys.com. Yes, that etoys.com, which went through it's own spectacular bankruptcy during the dotcom bust, and ended up getting bought by the private equity firm D.E. Shaw for $5 million. It came under the corporate umbrella of the Shaw-controlled The Parent Company, formerly BabyUniverse, which bought PoshTots for $12 million in 2006. The Parent Company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy at the end of December. [nyt]

1 Comment

Thanks for this great timeline. I was completely confused about what had happened when and this answered all of my questions.

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