How Art Van went from a retail juggernaut to a house afire

DUSTIN WALSH | March 8, 2020

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The Warren-based retailer's sudden announcement that it would wind down operations comes only three years after its late founder, Art Van Elslander, sold the company to a Boston-based private equity firm, Thomas H. Lee Partners LP, in an estimated $550 million deal. How did a seemingly healthy, valuable and beloved company go so wrong so fast? After its 2017 acquisition, Thomas H. Lee set an aggressive strategy to open 200 more stores and double revenue to $2 billion by 2020. But being saddled with roughly $400 million in debt and no financial cushion to respond to the disruption of changing furniture habits left Art Van's business model sitting on a tinderbox. Management missteps were all the fuel needed to burn the house down.

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GGV Capital

GGV Capital is a global venture capital firm that invests in local founders. As a multi-stage, sector-focused firm, GGV focuses on seed-to-growth stage investments across Consumer/New Retail, Social/Digital & Internet, Enterprise/Cloud and Frontier Tech sectors. The firm was founded in 2000 and manages $6.2 billion in capital across 13 funds. Past and present portfolio companies include Affirm, Airbnb, Alibaba, Bitsight, ByteDance (Toutiao), Ctrip, Didi Chuxing, Grab, Gladly, Hello Chuxing, HashiCorp, Houzz, Keep, LingoChamp, Namely, Niu, Nozomi Networks, Opendoor, Peloton, Poshmark, Slack, Square, Wish, Xauto, Xiaohongshu, Yellow, YY, Zhaoyou and more. The firm has offices in Beijing, San Francisco, Shanghai and Silicon Valley. Learn more at ggvc.com, @GGVCapital or GGVCapital on WeChat.

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