Talk about a classic case of sell high and buy low.
Well-known Twin Cities businessman Irwin Jacobs has agreed to buy back Jacobs Trading from Liquidity Services Inc. for at least $13 million, just four years after Liquidity paid Jacobs more than $140 million for the business.
Liquidity Services, a Washington, D.C.-based surplus goods dealer, announced the sale Friday, and it’s expected to close Wednesday.
Jacobs Trading, which sells closeout merchandise, is the original business that Irwin Jacobs and his father started decades ago. He sold it to publicly traded Liquidity Services for $140 million in cash, though Jacobs said the proceeds eventually totaled about $200 million.
That amount includes payments Jacobs received after Jacobs Trading met some post-deal financial goals, as well as profits from Liquidity Services stock that Jacobs obtained in the transaction.
Liquidity Services could stand to get $4 million in proceeds beyond the $13 million price tag if the Jacobs-owned Jacobs Trading meets certain financial goals in the next few years.
“We will grow the company again, I’m certain of that,” Jacobs told the Star Tribune. “I believe we can turn it around quickly.”
Jacobs Trading historically had a vital relationship with Wal-Mart, reselling goods that had been returned, were damaged or were obsolete. Liquidity Services, which already had a relationship with Wal-Mart, bought Jacobs Trading primarily for its ties to the retail giant.
But Wal-Mart terminated its agreement with Liquidity Services last December. It alleged that Liquidity failed to comply with certain provisions under its Wal-Mart agreement with respect to service level requirements and restrictions on the disposition of merchandise.
Liquidity Services disputed the allegations, but still lost the Wal-Mart trade. “That changed the whole business model for Jacobs Trading,” Jacobs said.
Under Jacobs’ wing again, Jacobs Trading will be paired with CEG Enterprises, a merchandise closeout business operated by Jacobs’ grandson, Cole Grodnick. Irwin Jacobs, 74, will be president of Jacobs Trading. Hopkins-based Jacobs is an erstwhile corporate raider who owns several companies.