Monthly Archives: September 2013

Martha vs. Macy’s: Judge Schedules Sept. 25 Hearing on Report Penney’s Will Drop Contested Items

jcpeverydaypans

The judge in the Martha vs. Macy’s trial has scheduled a hearing for September 25, though he did not give a reason for the hearing. According to the Dallas Business Journal, the hearing is in response to the NY Post article that claimed JC Penney was dropping its plan to carry Martha Stewart-designed items–branded “jcp everyday”–in its stores. Obviously, if JC Penney voluntarily quits carrying the contested products, the lawsuit is ended in Macy’s favor.

After the original article ran in the NY Post, a spokesperson for MSLO stated “J.C. Penney remains one of our many retail partners. Our agreement with them is in force, and we have no intention of ending it,” indicating they would not be receptive to an early termination of the agreement. Unless there is specific language in the contract that allows JC Penney to do so, it is expected that MSLO may itself sue JC Penney for breach of contract.

From the Dallas Business Journal:

Oing oversaw the lengthy non-jury trial on a claim by Macy’s that Penney’s 2011 deal with Stewart violated her 2006 agreement with the Cincinnati-based retailer. Oing’s decision in the suit is expected soon. A source told Bloomberg that Oing intends to ask Penney’s lawyers if the story is true because it could affect his ruling on the contract.

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JC Penney Appears Poised to End Partnership with Martha

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Things just got more complicated for Martha and Co.

To most following the Martha vs. Macy’s trial, it looks very unlikely that Martha and JC Penney will prevail. In a nutshell: Although Martha’s contract with Macy’s did, in fact, allow for Martha to open stand-alone Martha Stewart stores that offer products in categories–housewares, bedding, bath, and cookware–that would compete with those items offered at Macy’s, the idea that Martha’s “store within a store” actually qualifies as a “stand alone” seems dubious, at best. Ron Johnson, the JC Penney CEO who developed the “store within a store” idea and created the partnership with MSLO, was ousted in April 2013. His predecessor, Mike Ullman, was reappointed to take over the company and has shown little to no enthusiasm for the plan.

Yesterday, reports surfaced that Penney’s was planning to discontinue offering products designed by Martha Stewart in those categories deemed exclusive  in Martha’s contract with Macy’s, effectively throwing in the towel to end the ongoing lawsuit. More worrisome are reports that JC Penney was also ending its entire partnership with Martha, and would not be selling any Martha Stewart products, even in categories that did not impinge upon the Martha-Macy’s contract. According to one insider, CEO Ullman has said, “Her designs aren’t that great. They’re not selling, and they’re nothing that your normal Joe Schmoe can’t come up with.”

Further complicating the matter is the fact that, as part of its partnership with MSLO, JC Penney purchased a 16.6-percent stake in MSLO, infusing the cash-strapped company with $38.5 million. Obviously, MSLO would prefer to see their partnership with JC Penney continue. A MSLO spokesperson has released as statement saying, “J.C. Penney remains one of our many retail partners. Our agreement with them is in force, and we have no intention of ending it.”

If JC Penney does end its partnership with Martha, it is expected that MSLO will sue JC Penney to enforce the contract, unless there is specific language in the contract allowing JC Penney to end it at any time. MSLO had projected its merchandising agreement with JC Penney to generate $200 million dollars in much-needed revenue for the company over the next several years. MSLO has become increasingly dependent upon revenue generated through licensing and merchandising agreements, as sales through its magazine divisions have slowed and Martha’s presence on television has diminished. MSLO stock prices sunk when the news of the end of its JC Penney partnership was leaked.

From the NY Post (as is the above photo):

Ullman, a former Penney CEO who returned to the helm in April to repair damage from a disastrously unsuccessful turnaround effort by Johnson, began to broadcast the split with the beleaguered domestic diva to workers in recent weeks, insiders said.

However, Ullman was determined to give Stewart the boot from the get-go, insiders said.

As reported by The Post, Ullman initially reached out to Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren to settle the lawsuit, which had already gone to trial with dramatic testimony from Lundgren, Johnson and Stewart herself.

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Martha vs. Macy’s Trial to Resume Monday

Martha in Court

If you have been following the trial, you likely remember that the judge in the case ordered the parties into mediation while the trial was in recess, in the hope that they could resolve the dispute without a ruling from the court. No such settlement emerged, and so the trial will resume again next Monday. Much is on the line, especially for J.C. Penney and MSLO, as both companies have lately had disappointing financials. Macy’s, seen as the likely beneficiary of a court ruling, has essentially no reason to negotiate or settle with the other parties.

From MarketsPress website:

The three parties Macy’s, J.C. Penney and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia were sent into mediation by the officiating Judge Jeffrey Oing. He had hoped to resolve the dispute mutually during the time the non-jury trial was in a recess owing to the conflicts in the schedule.

However, even on Friday there was no evidence of any deal being stuck and witnesses would be testifying the same in the early part of this week according to a person who knows the case. The person who was not authorized to speak publicly and wished to remain anonymous told that the witnesses might include a few J.C. Penney marketing executives.

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