industry insider | Apr 15, 2019
A Tennessee real estate developer just bid $19 million to buy Robert Allen Duralee
Boh staff
By Staff

The Robert Allen Duralee Group bankruptcy saga has turned the page on a new chapter—the beleaguered fabric giant has a potential buyer. In an email to employees sent on Friday, CEO Lee Silberman announced that his company has “entered into an asset purchase agreement with RADG Holdings LLC with respect to its proposed purchase of The Robert Allen Duralee Group … needless to say, we are all very pleased.”

The bid is for $19 million. If another entity wishes to outbid the “stalking horse” (the first mover in a bankruptcy purchasing agreement), it will have to pony up $19.7 million or more. If no new bid emerges by the end of the month, RADG Holdings will own Robert Allen Duralee.

Who or what is RADG Holdings? Here’s what we know so far.

The name RADG Holdings is a little confusing, seeming to imply that Robert Allen Duralee is buying itself. Not so. On legal documents filed with the announcement, it’s indicated that Brant Enderle is the manager of RADG Holdings, and that the company’s offices are headquartered in Knoxville, Tennessee. At this early date, it’s not clear if Enderle owns RADG Holdings outright, or whether it’s a shell company set up to represent an investment group. The LLC was incorporated only 10 days ago in Delaware.

Enderle appears to have no prior connection to the fabric or home furnishings industry. Recent news articles paint him as a Knoxville real estate developer; his projects include a local brewery that closed in 2017, the site of an abandoned mill slated for commercial redevelopment, and 900 acres formerly owned by the state power company.

Enderle does have a background in buying distressed assets. In 2016, WBIR, a local news station, reported that one of his companies, Knoxville Partners LLC, purchased a mall in Knoxville for $10.1 million, roughly a third of the appraisal price. Since then, the mall has struggled to retain tenants, and, for a time, owed over $600,000 in back taxes (the taxes have since been repaid).

how did we get here

After multiple rounds of pay cuts and layoffs, padlocks on the doors of its Houston showroom, and rampant rumors of vendors and licensees not getting paid, RADG filed for Chapter 11 in mid-February, a move that executives hoped would clear the way for a takeover. In a letter to employees, Silberman wrote, “We believe this court-supervised process is the best way to solidify and enhance our financial position.”

The company had been bogged down by debt, much of which was inherited at the company’s start. Following the March 2017 merger of Robert Allen and Duralee, the company cut costs by $10 million to $12 million in less than a year, but it wasn’t enough. “The biggest dirty little secret that [company CFO] Bill Fuchs and I have been keeping from the team is an acknowledgement that when we merged, we were undercapitalized,” Silberman told the company’s leadership team in a September 2018 meeting. He also revealed that at the time of the merger, he was aware that private equity firm Altamont Capital Partners would not put up additional capital to fund the new entity. “Both companies were undercapitalized before the merger, and the merged entity remained undercapitalized,” he said.

Unable to break its long-term leases, the company was also stuck paying double the staff and rent at multiple design centers; it’s also widely-known that the computer systems of the two companies could never be fully integrated, costing additional time and money. Then, sales declined in 2017 and 2018 by 14 percent.

In an April 2018 meeting with Altamont, the firm informed Silberman that they wanted to sell their majority stake in the company—and they tasked him with finding a new buyer. “Since April 26, I have been working two full-time jobs,” he said in that September meeting, finally divulging the news to his team. He compared the “benign neglect” of Altamont’s management with what he was looking for in a new partner: “I’ve been making it very clear that when the deal is done, we will have the capital we need to pay off our vendors, take care of our mill delays, and fix all of our technology problems. And the companies I’m talking to are well aware of that situation and are still interested.”

According to documents filed in accordance with the bankruptcy proceedings, The Robert Allen Duralee Group has about $64 million in debt spread out among its various creditors. If the stalking horse bid goes through, the proceeds from the sale will mean that some of them are reimbursed, though to what degree (and in what order) is not yet clear.

As of press time, Enderle had not responded to requests for comment.

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