American Apparel Inc. has come back in style for one of L.A.’s wealthiest men.

Billionaire investor Ron Burkle wants to buy a chunk of the hefty debt load held by American Apparel through his L.A. holding company Yucaipa Cos., which could put him in position to influence the downtown L.A. fashion house.

Burkle’s desire to become more active in American Apparel was reported in the New York Post last week. The news comes as the apparel maker and retailer is in turnaround mode. The company has been battered by manufacturing problems, declining sales and its debt load.

Burkle, ranked No. 5 on this year’s Business Journal list of Wealthiest Angelenos with a net worth of $4.3 billion, first showed interest in American Apparel by acquiring a 6 percent equity stake in the company last summer. But he cut those holdings to 3.1 percent earlier this year.

The struggling retailer remains an attractive target for Burkle, said Lloyd Greif, chief executive at downtown L.A. investment banking firm Greif & Co. and a longtime friend and adviser to Burkle. Greif said an investment in the clothing company’s debt would allow Burkle to influence management and improve operations, a strategy often employed when he invests in businesses.

“American Apparel is under pressure, their stock is depressed” Greif said. “Ron is very much into buying low and selling high. He’s done it time and time again, and he does it in situations where’s he able to add value.”

American Apparel’s stock closed at 89 cents on Aug. 24, down 47 percent year to date.

A representative for Burkle declined to comment. American Apparel Founder and Chief Executive Dov Charney didn’t return calls seeking comment.

Burkle is most likely eyeing American Apparel’s $75 million loan with Bank of America, which matures in July of next year, according to a source familiar with the situation. As of June 30, American Apparel owed $52 million on the credit line with $1.3 million available for additional borrowing, according to a July regulatory filing.

The brand, known for its hipster-inspired clothes and provocative ad campaigns, has appealed to Burkle for several years, according to a source familiar with the deal.

“It’s a good opportunity to make an investment in the debt,” the source said.

According to reports in New York media, Burkle would be backing either New York investor Jason Beckman of Colbeck Capital or Jason Taubman Kalisman of the Taubman real estate family in the deal.


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