BJ's confirms it is exploring a possible sale
BJ's Wholesale Club Inc., the Westborough-based chain of warehouse club stores, said today that it has "decided to explore and evaluate strategic alternatives, including a possible sale of the company."
In a press release, the company added that it has engaged Morgan Stanley & Co. Inc. as its financial advisor to assist in this process.
In July, Leonard Green & Partners LP, a Los Angeles private equity firm that has investments in retail chains such as Sports Authority and Whole Foods, took a 9.5 percent stake in BJ's; that move touched off speculation that BJ's could be taken private.
Officials from Leonard Green and Morgan Stanley could not be immediately reached for comment this morning.
"Last year, Leonard Green bought a large amount of BJ's stock," BJ's spokeswoman Kelly McFalls said in a telephone interview this morning. "They would not have made that decision unless they saw BJ's as an attractive well-run business. Since then, it's become clear that the company should find out whether a sale of BJ's or another transaction could create value for our shareholders, including Leonard Green."
McFalls said the independent committee, which this week made the recommendation to explore alternatives including a sale, is comprised of members from BJ's board of directors. But she would not specify the individuals.
"We don't have a timeline for when a decision will be made on what strategic alternative to pursue," McFalls said. "But we plan to stay the course in terms of investing in our clubs, remodeling, technology, and our people."
BJ's has 950 workers at its new headquarters in Westborough, and a total of 23,000 people work for the chain, which is opening its 190th club store this weekend.
BJ's has been in unenviable position of competing against two larger rivals, Costco and Sam's Clubs, a chain operated by Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
Last month, BJ's disclosed plans to shutter five stores, slash nearly 500 jobs, and shuffle senior management, a recent Globe story noted.
Separately this morning, BJ's reported that January sales increased by 6.5 percent to $779.8 million compared to January 2010.
For the year ended Jan. 29, total sales increased by 8.3 percent to $10.6 billion, BJ's said.