Is it really that bad, Anders?

My fellow Fool puts up a worthy argument in detailing how Gap's (NYSE:GPS) salvation would be easier to accomplish behind closed doors, but I don't buy it.

For starters, he compares Gap with troubled retailers that are debt-saddled and deficit-riddled. That isn't Gap at all. The company has been consistently profitable, even through the seasonally challenging quarters. Over the past three years, Gap has whittled down its debt from $2.5 billion to a mere $0.2 billion. Yes, its cash war chest has shrunk, too -- departing CEO Paul Pressler wasn't a master illusionist -- but it still weighs in at a respectable $1.8 billion.

I know that the challenges are real. I know that Gap can't just snap its fingers and -- poof -- turn Banana Republic into Chico's FAS (NYSE:CHS), Gap into American Eagle Outfitters (NASDAQ:AEOS), and Old Navy into Zumiez (NASDAQ:ZUMZ).

Yet it doesn't have to. Going private won't help speed up brand-building initiatives. Struggling retailers can turn to bankruptcy as a way out of unattractive leases, but that's just silly given Gap's cash-rich balance sheet.

Sure, Gap is in a funk, but it's still a free-cash-flow behemoth that will ultimately reward patient investors. Don't you think shareholders deserve that much? A private-equity firm would be interested in Gap only as an attractive turnaround situation. Then it would hand back the same company to the market at a higher valuation.

It happens all the time. We wouldn't be snapping up shares of Burger King (NYSE:BKC), Warner Music Group (NYSE:WMG), and Morton's (NYSE:MRT) as standalone public companies today if they hadn't spent the past few years in privately owned exile.

Don't let that happen to Gap. Just because there's a Fisher at the helm, that doesn't mean it's time to cut bait.

You're not quite done yet! To see the bear argument and the rebuttals, head back to the beginning. If you've already read everything, cast your vote for the winner and share your thoughts at Motley Fool CAPS.

Gap is both a Motley Fool Stock Advisor and an Inside Value pick. Zumiez is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems recommendation. Free 30-day trials are but a click away for any of our newsletter services.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz didn't step into a Gap or Banana Republic in 2006, though he did get dragged into an Old Navy once. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this duel. He is also a member of the Rule Breakers analytical team, seeking out the next great growth stock early in its defiance. The Fool has a disclosure policy.