Just Who Are Those Guys?

A reclusive Middle East firm buys Saks for $1.5 billion

As an investment, the retailing industry has the look of a losing bet. In just the past few months, hard times or bankruptcy has befallen such legendary stores as B. Altman, Bonwit Teller, Bloomingdale's and Abraham & Straus. Yet this prominent list of casualties failed to dampen the bidding war that began last September when B.A.T. Industries of London decided to sell Saks Fifth Avenue, one of the most prestigious U.S. retailing chains. At least four potential buyers vied for the richly profitable company (estimated 1989 earnings: $111 million), which has 45 stores in such locales as Manhattan, Beverly Hills, and...

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