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Fortunoff family looks to relaunch their brand

The families who owned and operated Fortunoff before its sale to private equity firms have purchased all the intellectual property of the now-bankrupt company and are researching ways to relaunch the brand, family members said Tuesday.

The Fortunoff and Mayrock families, who built the iconic regional retailer of gifts, housewares, furniture and jewelry over four generations, bought the property for about $1.8 million. The purchase - approved July 6 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan - included the brand name, related trademarks, customer lists, domain names and copyrighted material.

The company has been liquidating its assets since February, when it filed for bankruptcy and its parent company, NRDC Equity Partners Llc, was unable to find buyers to continue running the chain.

David Fortunoff, who ran Fortunoff.com as well as the company's bridal registry, credit card and database marketing, noted that the Fortunoff name still resonates with consumers and that "tremendous opportunity" in the outdoor furniture, jewelry and bridal niches still exists.

"We didn't make this investment for posterity, and we didn't just want to buy the name so no one else could use it," he said. "This is an investment for us. We are still passionate about bringing products to the marketplace."

Exactly how the families will revive the brand has yet to be determined, and there is no rush, especially under the current economic conditions, Fortunoff said. Over the next several months, the families will research strategies and retail platforms they will use to relaunch the Fortunoff name, he said.

"Whatever we do, it's unlikely to be identical to the past," Fortunoff said. "It is likely to include e-commerce. It might include product licensing. It may involve retail, and brick and mortar retail in some capacity."

The chain, despite being regional, was always among the nation's top jewelry retailers, he said. "What if Fortunoff jewelry could be made available nationwide through other jewelers?" he asked.

The Fortunoff name still represents "integrity" as well as quality and service to many consumers, agreed Howard Davidowitz, chairman of the Manhattan-based Davidowitz & Associates Inc., a retail consulting and investment banking firm. He said outdoor furniture garden centers may be a good sector for a possible brand relaunch.

"I think the garden centers are something they made work," Davidowitz said. "There is not a gigantic amount of competition and they had expertise at it. . . . The name Fortunoff going along with that gives it tremendous credibility."

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