NEW YORK, United States — Bankrupt Brooks Brothers Group Inc. is on the verge of being sold to a partnership that includes the new owner of Barneys New York and one of the biggest US mall operators.
Sparc Group LLC, which is backed by Authentic Brands Group LLC and Simon Property Group Inc., is expected to be the winning bidder after rivals including WHP Global dropped away, according to people familiar with the sale process. An official update could come as early as Tuesday, said the people, who weren’t authorised to speak publicly before the announcement.
Authentic and Simon had previously disclosed they were bidding $305 million in a court-supervised auction for Brooks Brothers’ global business operations. The sale would save at least 125 of the men’s clothing stores, while enabling Authentic to increase its collection of well-known retail brands and Simon to keep one of its mall tenants in business.
Representatives for Brooks Brothers, Authentic and WHP Global, which owns the Joseph Abboud and Anne Klein brands, declined to comment. Simon didn’t immediately respond to messages left after regular business hours.
Authentic specialices in reviving beaten-down brands, including Aéropostale and Nautica. Sparc runs more than 2,600 retail stores, shop-in-shops and an e-commerce platform.
WHP, with backing from funds run by Oaktree Capital and BlackRock Inc., was originally named the lender on Brooks Brothers’ bankruptcy loan, which typically puts a lender in a strong position to become the new owner.
But Authentic and Simon submitted a competing offer that Brooks Brothers annointed as the preferred “stalking horse” bid for a bankruptcy auction. The status came with a $9.1 million break-up fee and up to $1 million in expenses if they were outbid, according to court papers.
WHP complained at an August 3 hearing that Brooks Brothers ran roughshod over its bid, even though it was higher at $334 million in cash, according to WHP’s lawyer, Gary Kaplan of Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson.
“For whatever reason, that’s been stalled, delayed, slow-walked,” Kaplan said. With Brooks Brothers downplaying the value of WHP’s bid, and with $10 million of breakup expenses to shoulder, WHP and the public company with which it was collaborating planned to revoke their bid if Authentic and Simon were approved as the stalking horse, he said.
Bloomberg reported earlier that Authentic and Simon were positioning themselves to own the 200-year-old chain. The duo has teamed up before, with a pending offer for Lucky Brand Dungarees, and they’ve held talks along with Brookfield Property Partners LP about buying bankrupt J.C. Penney Co. and Ann Taylor’s parent, Ascena Retail Group Inc. Authentic and the two mall operators already bought Forever 21 Inc., which went bankrupt last year.
Brooks Brothers said on July 8 when it filed for bankruptcy that it plans to permanently shut 51 stores in the US. It counted 500 worldwide in 45 countries, with 200 in North America. A hearing to approve the sale of the retailer’s assets was scheduled for later this week.
By Katherine Doherty.