NEW YORK, United States — Teen clothing retailer Aéropostale Inc. won court permission to sell its assets to buyers led by Simon Property Group Inc. and General Growth Properties Inc. after the landlords banded together with liquidators to save jobs and stores — a novel approach that lawyers said could be a model for distressed retailers.
The group prevailed at a September 2 auction with a $243 million bid and a plan to keep open at least 229 stores. US Bankruptcy Judge Sean Lane approved the sale in Manhattan court Monday after being told by the retailer’s lawyers that the arrangement would save at least 7,000 jobs.
“This could be a model for future restructurings in the years ahead,” Ray Schrock, a lawyer for Aéropostale, told Lane.
Simon was a landlord at more than 160 Aéropostale stores at the time of the New York-based chain’s bankruptcy in May, according to court filings.
When no bids to buy the company as a going concern emerged, Simon and General Growth, also an Aéropostale landlord, started exploring ways to save a key tenant, according to a court filing by Stanley Shashoua, a vice president at Simon. They got Authentic Brands Group LLC, Hilco Merchant Resources LLC and Gordon Brothers Retail Partners LLC to join in a bidding consortium, Shashoua said.
Before that, the retailer only had bids to liquidate its assets, including an opening offer from a joint venture of Tiger Capital Group and Great American Group for $184 million, Schrock told Lane.
Hilco and Gordon will conduct some store closing sales and provide working capital for the transactions, Aéropostale’s lawyers told the judge. The deal sets aside about $74 million to fund a Chapter 11 plan. A hearing to confirm it is expected in late November, they said.
A backup liquidation bid from senior lender Sycamore Partners would be next in line if the landlord-led deal is not completed.
The chain filed for bankruptcy after succumbing to competition from big-box stores, online merchants and “fast fashion” rivals. It had about 800 stores before it went into Chapter 11.
The case is In re Aéropostale Inc., 16-11275, US Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
By Tiffany Kary; editors: Andrew Dunn, Rick Green.