The two stunning retailer-related events of the 21st century — so far — have been the decision by Bain Capital to take Edcon private and Walmart’s acquisition of just over 50% of Massmart. In early 2007 Bain announced the largest-to-date private equity deal in a R25bn heavily-geared transaction that pretty much marked the beginning of the end of a spectacular growth period for the decades-old Edcon. Since then Edcon has been in almost consistent decline and more recently on the edge of business rescue.In 2012, after a prolonged battle with the competition authorities, Walmart eventually got its hands on 51% of Massmart, paying R148 a share for the stake.It isn’t just the benefit of hindsight that makes these deals look ill-considered. Back in 2007 many analysts were concerned about the steep price at which Bain was buying out shareholders and the hefty amounts of debt that were being piled onto the Edcon operations.As for Massmart, the R148 looked like a gift at the time — it stil...

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