January 31, 2008, 12:00 AM

TigerDirect owner Systemax moves to acquire troubled merchant CompUSA

Rather than disappearing from the retail scene, CompUSA.com will evolve into a broader e-commerce site with an improved shopping experience and an extended line of consumer electronics, according to Systemax, which expects to closed this quarter on its planned purchase of CompUSA.

Rather than disappearing from the retail scene, CompUSA.com will evolve into a broader e-commerce site with an improved shopping experience and an extended line of consumer electronics, according to Systemax Inc., which expects to close this quarter on its planned purchase of the troubled retailer.

The new CompUSA.com is expected to complement TigerDirect as a Systemax retail operation, and feature advanced search function and enhanced content, including photo galleries and videos on thousands of the most popular PC, TV and consumer electronics items, Systemax says.

The transaction follows about a month after CompUSA’s December sale for an undisclosed amount to Gordon Brothers Group LLC, a Boston investment banking firm that specializes in retailing liquidations, asset management and corporate turnarounds. At the time CompUSA planned to close all but the most profitable of top performers among its network of 104 stores.

The direct costs of the acquisition will depend on the specific retail stores that are ultimately taken over and are expected to be about $30 million, Systemax says. Any indirect costs of the acquisition, including integration and recruiting costs, legal fees and inventory purchases, will be in addition to the direct costs.

Brand value

“We believe the value of the CompUSA brand remains very high. The company has a long legacy of value pricing, service and customer loyalty among consumers nationwide,” says Richard Leeds, CEO of Systemax. “We view this acquisition as a strong complementary business to our TigerDirect operation.”

According to TigerDirect CEO Gilbert Fiorentino, CompUSA.com’s customer base enhances that of TigerDirect.com, and the CompUSA retail stores will strengthen the company’s planned retail expansion. TigerDirect currently operates 11 retail stores in Florida, Illinois, North Carolina and Ontario. Pending required approvals, up to 16 CompUSA stores in Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico will be added during the first quarter of 2008.

“Millions of loyal customers will come to the Systemax and TigerDirect family of businesses through this acquisition,” Fiorentino says. “We anticipate hiring many experienced CompUSA employees, preserving hundreds of store management and sales positions and making us stronger and better in the process.”

Until the agreement is closed, CompUSA.com and its retail operations will continue to operate under CompUSA’s existing management. Once the acquisition is completed, an upgraded CompUSA.com site will operate within Systemax’s family of e-commerce web sites, including SystemaxPC.com, the company says.

Gordon Brothers is also the investment banking firm that is consolidating the final operations of The Bombay Co. Inc., which closed its trio of e-commerce sites and began shuttering stores in October.

Gordon Brothers purchased the assets of CompUSA from Grupo Carso, a Mexican manufacturing and retail conglomerate owned and operated by billionaire Carlos Slim Helu. DJM Realty, a Gordon Brothers Group company that specializes in real estate disposition and valuations, will assist in assessing the leases for CompUSA’s store locations.

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