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Reinterpreting the great US department store bankruptcies of the 1980s - a catalyst to strategic structural change

Wood, S (2008) Reinterpreting the great US department store bankruptcies of the 1980s - a catalyst to strategic structural change Journal of Management History, 14 (4). 404 - 423. ISSN 1355-252X

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Abstract

Purpose –The financial restructuring of the US department store industry is commonly interpreted as a time of corporate excess, value-destruction and ultimately collapse. This research aims to re-analyse these events using qualitative methods to understand the background to the leveraged transactions and to review the implications that their failure had for the longer term strategy and structure of the US department store industry. Design/methodology/approach – The research is based on two extensive periods of fieldwork in the United States when the author interviewed (n=28) many of the protagonists of the 1980s restructuring period and those who inherited the management of the bankrupt businesses in the 1990s. By adopting a qualitative perspective, we are accessing social and human perspectives of these developments as well as their wider effects. Findings – The leveraged transactions were conceptually an appropriate attempt to centralise the structure of the industry but their execution was not possible under such extreme financial distress. However, bankruptcy protection provided the environmental conditions to realise the benefits of more efficient strategic and subsequent wide-ranging structural change. Originality/value – This research differs from economistic readings of the period that analyse changes in market value of the constituent firms and the more reactionary journalistic accounts. The paper re-casts the failed financial restructuring in a new light, underlining the regenerative effects of Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection in promoting firm revival, alongside visionary leadership. Keywords - leveraged buy-outs; corporate restructuring; department stores; retail history; qualitative research Paper type - Research paper

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is © Emerald Group Publishing and permission has been granted for this version to appear here. Emerald does not grant permission for this article to be further copied/distributed or hosted elsewhere without the express permission from Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Divisions: Faculty of Business, Economics and Law > Surrey Business School
Depositing User: Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited: 03 May 2012 16:42
Last Modified: 23 Sep 2013 19:12
URI: http://epubs.surrey.ac.uk/id/eprint/209761

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