July 23, 2009, 12:00 AM

The Fortunoff family takes back its brand

The descendants of Max and Clara Fortunoff, who opened a department store chain bearing the family’s name in 1922, have acquired all intellectual property related to the brand, including Fortunoff.com, related trademarks, customer lists and software.

The Fortunoff brand is back in the family.

The descendants of Max and Clara Fortunoff, which opened a department store chain bearing the family’s name in 1922, have acquired all intellectual property related to the brand, including the Fortunoff name, related trademarks, customer lists, software, domain names and all other copyrighted material.

The Fortunoff family and a related family, the Mayrocks, purchased the assets after submitting a winning bid for an undisclosed price following the results of an intellectual property auction on June 23 in the New York offices of Sidley Austin LLP, the law firm handling the auction for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for Southern New York. The court approved the winning bid earlier this week. “We never imagined the Fortunoff brand name going into free fall when it has served as a retail icon for as long as anyone can remember,” says family spokesman David Fortunoff, who formerly was one of the chain’s executive vice presidents. “It has been a chilling series of events and we decided to redeem the Fortunoff brand.”

Fortunoff filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in early February, blaming a sales slowdown on the economic crisis. The company noted debt exceeding $100 million in its filing with the bankruptcy court. Fortunoff previously declared bankruptcy in January 2008 and was acquired in February 2008 by NRDC Equity Partners for $110 million. Fortunoff entered liquidation in late February 2009 with the approval of a bankruptcy court judge.

Fortunoff isn’t giving any details or a timetable for re-launching the brand. “It is clear that retail is suffering from the effects of the recession,” says Fortunoff. “Against that backdrop we intend to proceed with deliberate caution in determining where, when and how we utilize this powerful retail brand as the recession takes its course.”

But it’s also highly likely that Fortunoff, which generated annual web sales of $22 million as recently as 2007, will come back as an online retailer. Many of the assets Fortunoff acquired in its winning bid were Internet-related, including 75 domain names such as Fortunoff.com, FortunoffBrides.com and FortunoffJewelry.com, all copyrighted design layouts and source codes. Fortunoff also acquired a customer database with more than 750,000 customer names, many with detailed purchase histories in merchandising categories such as jewelry and home furnishings.

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