Levin steps down, wants to buy SI

Jerry Levin resigned March 10 as chairman of The Sharper Image, and has informed the company that he and a group of investors are interested in acquiring some or all of the troubled high-tech gifts and gadgets merchant’s assets.

According to a statement, recently appointed CEO Robert Conway said San Francisco-based Sharper Image would give full consideration to any proposal, but wouldn’t assure any such proposals were coming.

Sharper Image filed for Chapter 11 in February. In an affidavit filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware, the merchant’s chief financial officer, Rebecca L. Roedell, said the company had incurred declining sales since 2004 and net losses in each of the past three fiscal years. The bankruptcy petition lists total assets of $251.5 million and total debts of $199 million, as of Jan. 31.

Levin joined Sharper Image in July 2006 as a member of the board of directors, and became chairman/CEO two months later, replacing founder Richard Thalheimer. Though Levin made his niche as a turnaround specialist and helped revive Sunbeam (now American Household) in 1998, sales and profits continued to tumble at Sharper Image.

Since January 2005, Sharper Image’s annual sales have slipped more than 50%, from $776 million to less than $400 million. For the fiscal year ended Jan. 31, 2008, total company sales fell 26%, to $374.9 million, compared to $506.7 million a year ago.

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