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Could Wal-Mart Bribery Scandal Derail Michaels’ IPO?

One of the year’s most hotly anticipated IPO offerings, Michaels Stores, could possibly be derailed because of a scandal involving its CEO’s previous tenure as a Wal-Mart executive.

On March 30th, Michaels Stores filed a widely anticipated notice with the SEC that it intends to become a publicly-held company again through an IPO that could raise as much as a half-billion dollars according to the SEC filing. Its private equity ownership Blackstone Group and Bain Capital have hired JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs to manage the IPO. Michaels was purchased by Blackstone and Bain in 2006 for $6 billion, and has been burdened ever since with a heavy debt load (currently $3.49 billion) that was used to finance the purchase. The company says it plans to use the IPO in part to pay off some of that debt.

Yesterday, however, the New York Times broke an investigative story that alleges that Wal-Mart de Mexico’s rapid expansion prior to 2005 was propelled with the help of million of dollars of bribes paid to government officials in that country to smooth the way for construction permits and for various other things. Even the company’s own internal investigation after a whistleblower contacted a US-based Wal-Mart lawyer in 2005 (which was then buried and not reported to outside authorities by Wal-Mart executives) concluded that laws had been broken in both the US and Mexico. The US Department of Justice and SEC are expected to investigate, with civil and criminal penalties for the company and its executives not outside the realm of possibility. The implications for Wal-Mart’s future are vast and serious.

So what is the connection of the Wal-Mart bribery scandal to the Michaels Stores IPO? John Menzer, Michaels Stores current CEO, was Vice Chairman of Wal-Mart at the time of the bribery operation and investigation. He retired from Wal-Mart in 2008, before joining Michaels Stores as CEO in early 2009. Menzer is named by the New York Times article as being deeply involved in thwarting the internal investigation into the bribes:

In October, Wal-Mart’s vice chairman, John B. Menzer, intervened in an internal investigation into a senior vice president who reported to him. According to internal records, Mr. Menzer told Mr. Senser he did not want Corporate Investigations to handle the case “due to concerns about the impact such an investigation would have.” One of the senior vice president’s subordinates, he said, “would be better suited to conduct this inquiry.” Soon after, records show, the subordinate cleared his boss.

Adding further complication to the situation, Michaels Stores announced on Friday that 60-year-old Menzer was in the hospital in stable condition, but refused to disclose the nature of his illness for privacy reasons.

Whether Menzer’s involvement in the Wal-mart bribery investigation will materially change the course of the Michaels Stores IPO is still to be seen. But in any case, it is definitely a cloud the company does not want hanging over its head at this critical time in its history.

Update, 4/23 9:00PM: The Washington Post is now reporting that the Department of Justice has been investigating the Wal-Mart case since December 2011.

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17 Responses to Could Wal-Mart Bribery Scandal Derail Michaels’ IPO?

  1. L Squared April 23, 2012 at 9:09 pm #

    Great reporting Nancy!

  2. Marina D-K April 23, 2012 at 9:45 pm #

    Agreed great story!

  3. Kelley April 24, 2012 at 6:38 am #

    lots of speculation, nothing factual on this yet!

    • Nancy Nally April 24, 2012 at 8:32 am #

      No, just making people aware of a potential issue out there affecting this big industry financial event…the New York Times also pointed out the possible concerns for Michaels in a piece yesterday.

  4. Barb S April 24, 2012 at 9:15 am #

    This will be difficult to sort out because in many countries the laws and ways of thinking are so different than in the US, and bribes to government officials are part of the cost of doing business. this story will go on for a long time and be interesting to watch. I am new to Update and really enjoying it. thanks for all the good stuff!

    • Nancy Nally April 24, 2012 at 10:54 pm #

      Welcome to Update Barbara! Glad you are enjoying it!

  5. Addie April 24, 2012 at 10:37 am #

    Nancy, thank you so much for this interesting article. I want more of this great news focus!

    • Nancy Nally April 24, 2012 at 10:48 am #

      Thanks Addie! Scrapbook Update had been going through some growing pains that kept me from writing as much as I’d like but things have settled down and you should be seeing me writing more again from now on.

      • Jersey Girl Anne April 24, 2012 at 5:08 pm #

        Nancy, Thanks for the great reporting. You must feel overwelmed at times with all you have on your plate. I know I appreciate Scrapbook Update very much. Keep up the great work!

  6. Sage April 24, 2012 at 10:42 am #

    thanks for such great reporting Nancy! keep us up to date!

  7. Tricia April 24, 2012 at 10:53 am #

    Thanks for the article. I would have missed this connection otherwise.

  8. Candy April 24, 2012 at 12:06 pm #

    Yikes!

  9. Laura H April 24, 2012 at 10:52 pm #

    You won’t find that at your LSS :)

    • Nancy Nally April 24, 2012 at 10:53 pm #

      Ok, I almost woke my sleeping kid up laughing out loud at that! :)

  10. Nancy Nally April 24, 2012 at 10:55 pm #

    Thanks for the nice words on this story, everyone! Glad you find it useful and informative!

  11. Denine April 25, 2012 at 8:30 am #

    Thank you Nancy! I truly enjoyed reading your article on the connection between Michael’s and Wal-Mart.

  12. Vicki J April 25, 2012 at 3:51 pm #

    Nancy is always better than LSS gossip! Thanks for another great article.

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