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Dean & DeLuca Closes Stores as Debts Pile Up

Pace was the developer behind the audacious Mahanakhon tower in Bangkok, a $1 billion stack of high-end residential units and retail spaces that is also the tallest building in Thailand. It opened in 2016, two years after Mr. Techakraisri bought Dean & DeLuca from a group of American investors for $140 million.

In an interview in response to the store closings and vendors’ complaints, Mr. Techakraisri said that Pace has spent more than $100 million in the United States on top of the purchase price to revitalize the brand. He said that Pace had undergone a “liquidity crisis” since the acquisition but remains committed to Dean & DeLuca and has recently restructured to raise capital.

“We are going to inject additional funds to fix the business and meet our obligations,” he said, with plans to start paying vendors next month. However, he said, “we may have to downsize to stay true to what the brand has been.”

Mr. Techakraisri promised that the flagship store in SoHo and STAGE, a new prototype in Manhattan’s meatpacking district that is supposed to reinvent fast food in the image of the brand, would remain open.

When Pace bought the chain in 2014, Mr. Techakraisri said he intended to open hundreds of stores around the world, with some of them acting as anchors for Pace’s luxury real estate and hotel projects. With fanfare, the company signed sponsorship deals, later revoked, with the P.G.A. golf tournament in Fort Worth and the U.S. Open tennis championship in New York. In 2017, he told the Nikkei Asian Review that he bought Dean & DeLuca not only to fill slots in his real estate holdings, but because the prestige food business was a stable sector — with one caveat.

“As long as you don’t damage the brand,” he said.

But the brand has been damaged, at least in the United States. Dean & DeLuca has pulled out of its high-profile sponsorships, been sued for nonpayment of rent, and seems to be sinking under the weight of Pace’s debt.

In 2014, the year Pace acquired Dean & DeLuca, Pace was operating at a net loss of $11 million, according to the company’s filings on the Thai stock exchange. In 2018, the company’s net loss had risen to $158 million. In its last financial statement in March, the company acknowledged “persistent operating losses,” that its liabilities currently exceed its assets, and that the holders of its debt doubt whether Pace will be able to continue operations as a “going concern.”

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