peHUB Second Opinion

* You may remember my brand analysis of Apax Partners’s success with Tommy Hilfiger. Well, in the spirit of revitalizing near-dead brands, two more private equity firms have big plans for The Sharper Image, the bankrupt retail chain once backed (through its equities fund) by Sun Capital. Liquidators Hilco Organization and Gordon Brothers Group purchased ownership rights to Sharper Image’s brand name and have plans to revive it, not as a retail business, but as a name for retailers to license and use to brand their products. (If you remember, Sharper Image’s signature (and perhaps downfall) was wildly unnecessary and expensive gadgets like Ionic Breeze air purifiers and $5,000 massage chairs.) The Wall Street Journal covered the situation today.
* Seeking Alpha argues that none of the Auto stocks are worth holding. I wonder, does this apply to holdings on the private side of things? Seems plenty of distressed (and even healthy!) investors are still expressing optimism about the auto industry (or should I say “cautious optimism;” I know how much investors like that phrase). Well, maybe not Cerberus. And probably not any of the seven firms owning bankrupt auto and auto supplier businesses. But be it a contrarian play, a distressed play, or just a plain vanilla buyout, I’ve heard more than a few GPs say “Automotive” (referring to both suppliers and manufacturers) when asked what industries they like right now.

* Everyone knows strategics are getting all the action this year. But surely private equity pros can learn something from the sidelines waiting for dealmaking to return (or in some cases, doing twice the work for half the result)? Deal Professor highlights some wonderful lessons on commitment letters, based on InBev’s vaguely boastful mention of committed financing for the takeover of Anheuser Busch. Take a look, he breaks down the language in Hexion and Clear Channel. And if you’re really commitment letter-hungry, check out David Toll’s column from April.

* Incidentally, all’s quiet at the Icahn Report since its June 18 launch.

* What do you think of the Journal under Murdoch’s ownership? Portfolio asked around 300 readers and slightly less than half said it’s gotten worse, while around 30% said it’s improved.

* Ok, the Ebay-ing of Bear Stearns merchandise is officially getting ridiculous. (Dealzone)

* Calculated Risk notes the TED spread is on the rise again, for the fourth time since the credit crunch set in.