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Report: Authentic Brands and Sycamore Partners Weigh Bids for Ann Taylor Owner

Ascena Retail Group had been struggling to contend with dated brands and merchandise and a shift to online shopping despite a string of acquisitions over the years.
Ann Taylor store | Source: Shutterstock
By
  • Bloomberg

NEW YORK, United States —  Authentic Brands Group and Sycamore Partners are among the parties considering buying bankrupt Ann Taylor parent Ascena Retail Group Inc., according to people familiar with the matter.

Authentic would team up with the two largest mall landlords, Simon Property Group Inc. and Brookfield Property Partners, to buy all or some of Ascena’s assets, said the people, who declined to be identified because the process isn’t public.

Ascena had been struggling to contend with dated brands and merchandise and a shift to online shopping despite a string of acquisitions over the years. In its bankruptcy filing, it said it plans to winnow its 2,800 locations to just 1,200, putting a significant portion of its 40,000 employees at risk.

The company’s other chains include Loft, Lane Bryant and Justice. It said in court papers that it plans to close all of the stores in its Catherines chain. Australia’s City Chic Collective Ltd. agreed to be the lead bidder in an expected auction for Catherines’ intellectual property and e-commerce business.

Representatives for Authentic, Ascena, Sycamore and Brookfield declined to comment, while Simon didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Ascena entered into an agreement with its lenders to cut debt in exchange for reorganised equity. The restructuring will give control to firms who support the plans, according to court records. Those include Bain Capital and Monarch Alternative Capital, which each get to appoint a director to the company’s board. A consortium of lenders including those firms, Eaton Vance Corp. and Lion Point Capital will choose another.

Though the current agreement calls for lenders to own Ascena after the bankruptcy, plans could change based on competing future bids for the company as a whole, or some of its brands, said the people. The situation remains fluid and requires court approval, as well as the consent of the parties who are subject to the restructuring agreement, they added.

Authentic and Sycamore have emerged as major players amid a retail shakeout that's seen waves of bankruptcies and liquidations. Both are also considering purchasing bankrupt department store J.C. Penney Co. Most recently, Authentic partnered with Simon and Brookfield to buy bankrupt Forever 21, a fast-fashion clothing chain with hundreds of mall stores.

By Lauren Coleman-Lochner and Katherine Doherty

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