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Photo: Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Private equity's retail apocalypse hit another miserable milestone yesterday, with Payless ShoeSource refiling for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The shoe store chain also plans to liquidate all 2,500 of its North American locations, costing around 16,000 people their jobs.

The bottom line: Physical retail is under severe stress, regardless of ownership structure, but private equity is almost always buying into mature industries that are prone to disruption. Engaging in large dividend recaps only makes the margin for error that much smaller, and the likelihood for failure that much larger.

Timeline:

  • Payless was taken private for around $1.3 billion in 2012 by Golden Gate Capital and Blum Capital. The firms would later pull hundreds of millions of dollars out of the company via dividend recaps, which ballooned its debt load to unmanageable levels.
  • The company first filed for bankruptcy in mid-2017, with some creditors actually getting a bit of compensation related to the dividend recaps (although the PE firms didn't admit any fault).
  • But the new majority owner, via creditor conversion, was Alden Global Capital — a private investment firm best known in media circles for buying newspapers and then cutting costs to the point of disrepair.
  • The rep for some short-term Payless lenders told a bankruptcy judge yesterday that Alden's stewardship since the original bankruptcy was a "total failure."

Go deeper: Payless' second bankruptcy follows a pattern

Go deeper

Trump threatens to veto Defense spending bill over social media shield

Photo: Erin Schaff - Pool/Getty Images

President Trump tweeted Tuesday a threat to veto a must-pass end-of-year $740 billion bill defense-spending authorization bill unless Congress repeals a federal law that protects social media sites from legal liability.

Why it matters: Trump's attempt to get Congress to end the tech industry protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is the latest escalation in his war on tech giants over what he and some other Republicans perceive as bias against conservatives.

The walls close in on Trump

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

With Bill Barr's "Et tu, Brute!" interview with AP, President Trump is watching the walls close in on his claims of fraud, hoaxes and conspiracies.

Why it matters: Trump and his legal team continue to claim election fraud. But the Republican governors of Arizona and Georgia have certified their elections, a loyalist like Barr has weighed in, and lower-ranking officials have taken potshots.

Congress plots COVID pandemic-era office upgrades

oving crates outside Rep. Elise Stefanik's old office Tuesday. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The House plans to renovate members' suites even though staff are worried about an influx of contractors and D.C. is tightening restrictions on large gatherings, some staffers told Axios.

Why it matters: The Capitol has been closed to public tours since March. Work over the holiday season comes as U.S. coronavirus cases spike, Americans beg for more pandemic assistance and food lines grow.