Still Seeking Synergy At Saks Fifth Avenue

By buying the troubled chain, critics say, Brad Martin may have bitten off more than he can chew

He's something of an accidental retail magnate. In 1984, when R. Brad Martin was a Tennessee real estate developer and longtime state legislator, he bought Proffitt's Inc., a chain of five local department stores, mostly because Martin was convinced the real estate was worth as much as the stores. But after the CEO retired, Martin was thrust into the job and caught the retailing bug. And in the ensuing years, he has earned a reputation as a savvy dealmaker with a thirst for acquisitions--five in four years, including such regional chains as Carson Pirie Scott, Herberger's, and Parisian.

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