State legislature, union keep an eye on Federated

As suitors line up to make a play for the Fingerhut catalog business, Cincinnati-based parent company Federated Department Stores is attracting some unwanted attention from state and union officials.

Last week, more than 200 Fingerhut employees demonstrated outside the company’s distribution center in St. Cloud, MN; workers demonstrated outside the company’s Tennessee fulfillment center as well. The Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE) has called for Federated to rescind notices sent last week to thousands of Fingerhut employees giving them 60 days advance notice of plant closings.

The union also called on Federated to restart catalog operations and to continue with the schedule of mailing three small catalogs between now and April. Fingerhut’s big spring book traditionally mails the first week of April. The union represents 1,500 Fingerhut employees.

On the state level, the Minnesota state legislature has formed a bipartisan coalition to monitor events surrounding the murky future of Fingerhut. Frequent meetings are scheduled.

For its part, Federated says it is taking all appropriate steps to find a buyer for Fingerhut. And in fact, New York-based private equity firm Apax Partners, which owns healthcare products cataloger Healthcare Direct, is the latest to inquire about purchasing Fingerhut. Apax joins Wayzata, MN-based turnaround company Business Development Group; a group headed by Eden Prairie, MN-based RedtagBiz CEO Tom Petters; and New York-based private equity fund KPS Special Situations Fund as potential buyers.

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