September 18, 2017 / 6:37 PM / a year ago

MOVES-Lazard debt restructuring banker returns to Toys "R" Us

Sept 18 (Reuters) - Toys “R” Us Inc has been relying on the debt restructuring advice of investment bank Lazard Ltd as it prepares to file for bankruptcy and now the struggling U.S. toy retailer has decided it wants to bring some of Lazard’s expertise inhouse.

Former Toys “R” Us executive Chetan Bhandari has agreed to leave Lazard’s debt restructuring practice, where he works as a managing director, to rejoin the retailer as senior finance director, a Toys “R” Us spokeswoman said on Monday.

Companies in distress often seek to hire seasoned debt restructuring professionals so they can better navigate a bankruptcy process and increase their chances of escaping liquidation.

Bhandari worked at Toys “R” Us as treasurer and senior vice president from 2014 until early this year, when he joined Lazard.

Before joining Toys “R” Us, Bhandari had worked in debt restructuring advisory and leveraged finance roles at GLC Advisors & Co, Goldman Sachs Group Inc and UBS Group AG .

Lazard has been advising Toys “R” Us on how to handle its approximately $5 billion debt pile, including $400 million that comes due next year. Toys “R” Us is preparing for a bankruptcy filing that could come before the holiday season, sources said last week.

Retailers are going through a major downturn, stemming in part from growing competition from ecommerce sites such as Inc.

Lazard is working on several of these restructurings, including luxury department store Neiman Marcus Group and shoe and accessories seller Nine West Holdings Inc.

Toys “R” Us is the latest in a string of financially distressed companies hiring executives with debt restructuring experience.

Claire’s Stores Inc, for example, an accessories retailer for girls and teens, hired Ronald Marshall as CEO last year, after he worked for book seller Borders Group Inc and supermarket chain The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co, both of which filed for bankruptcy.

Claire’s completed an out-of-court debt restructuring last year to buy time to help improve its finances. (Reporting by Jessica DiNapoli in New York)

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