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UPDATE Monday P.M.: Pep Boys’ West Allegheny Ave. headquarters, with 500 management and support jobs, will stay open “in the near term, ” following the company's planned sale to global tire giant Bridgestone, says Pep Boys general counsel Brian Zuckerman. The long-term future of the Philadelphia offices “will be assessed” once the deal is done. Buyer Bridgestone statement here; seller Pep Boys statement here.
"Of course there will be overlap" between Pep Boys and Bridgestone's existing stores and warehouses; changes will be made official after the deal is done, which the companies hope will be early next year, Zuckerman added.
Bridgestone Americas chief excutive Gary Garfield, retail tire boss Stuart Crum and consumer chief TJ Higgins took questions from Pep Boys staff at the company's West Allegheny Ave. headquarters today and said it would take a year or two to combine the company's executive, HR, merchandise, marketing, finance, insurance, legal and IT functions into Bridgestone's Nashville-based tire operations, including Firestone, according to people familiar with the company.
Bridgestone could decide to sell Pep Boys' front-of-the-store retail business, keeping its tire and service garages, analyst Antony Cristello told clients at BB&T Capital Markets, Richmond. (Bridgestone will see the retail business as "an opportunity, " Zuckerman told me.) - An enlarged Bridgestone is less likely to sell competitors’ tires, which could result in higher prices, added Cristello.
MONDAY A.M.: Pep Boys - Manny Moe & Jack, the iconic Philadelphia-based auto-parts and service store chain, has agreed to be sold to Bridgestone, the Japanese-based tiremaker that owns Firestone tire stores. Bridgestone will pay $15 a share, or $835 million, for the 800-store, 35-state, barely profitable company. The company, with 14, 000 employees, has yearly sales of $2 billion.
Pep Boys was under pressure to boost profits, or find a new owner who will, by activist shareholders including New York investor Mario Gabelli, whose Gamco mutual funds control 19 percent of the company. Pep Boys has sought buyers several times since 2006. The sale was approved unanimously by the company's board, which includes prominent Philadelphians such as accountant Jane Scaccetti, national investors such as James Mitarotonda of Barington Partners, and three Gabelli allies elected to the board in June.
Starting with its first store, opened in 1921 at 63rd and Market in the city's Overbrook section by Navy veterans Manny Rosenfeld, Moe Strauss, Moe Radavitz and Graham "Jack" Jackson, the chain grew quickly and became a familar sign in neighborhood and suburban shopping centers, like Schmidt's beer or Tastykakes. Pep Boys supplied Model T owners and other first-generation mass-market car-buyers, and expanded along the East Coast and beyond after World War II, with some of the founders' children taking senior management roles.
But Pep Boys' retail business and its large-store, mixed parts and service format has suffered in recent years as fewer Americans fix their own cars and chains like Autozone and Advance Auto Parts, with smaller stores in newer shopping districts, grew more quickly.
Pep Boys remains a leading tire seller in a fragmented national market, but has struggled to exploit its 7, 500 service bays to attract more new-model cars, analyst James J. Albertine told clients of Stifel and Co. in a report today.
Still unclear is the future of the company's West Allegheny Avenue headquarters, Philadelphia tire warehouse, and hundreds of administrative jobs, as Bridgestone integrates Pep Boys' back offices with other operations. "We still know little about Bridgestone's plans to turn around Pep Boys, " Albertine added.
Bridgestone's statement doesn't provide a cost-cutting target. Bridgestone, which owns many of the world's best-selling tire brands, has its U.S. headquarters is in Nashville, Tenn.
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