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  • INDUSTRY NEWS

    • On April 18, 2018, it was reported, the bondholders who wanted from the beginning of Bon-Ton Stores' bankruptcy to wind down the department store retailer's business have gotten their way. In a press release, Bon-Ton said a joint venture between a group of its second lien noteholders and liquidation firms Great American Group and Tiger Capital Group had the winning bid at a bankruptcy auction that began Monday. The bid would turn over Bon-Ton's inventory and "certain other assets" to the joint venture and wind down the retailer's operations. Bon-Ton CEO Bill Tracy said in a statement, "While we are disappointed by this outcome and tried very hard to identify bidders interested in operating the business as a going concern, we are committed to working constructively with the winning bidder to ensure an orderly wind-down" of Bon-Ton's business. The auction began Monday and ended Tuesday evening, according to court filings. A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday to approve the sale of Bon-Ton's assets and wind-down of its business, the company said in the release. The retailer's banners Bon-Ton, Bergner's, Boston Store, Carson's, Elder-Beerman, Herberger's and Younkers and e-commerce sites will remain open throughout the closing sales. On April 17, 2018, it was reported, Bon-Ton is set to wind down after a bankruptcy auction for its assets drew only liquidation bids, according to Reuters, which cited unnamed sources. Attorneys and spokespeople for Bon-Ton did not immediately reply to Retail Dive's request for comment. The auction still had not ended by late Monday, Reuters reported. The news service noted that once the company selects a winning bidder and the federal court overseeing Bon-Ton's bankruptcy proceedings approves it, "the liquidator can begin selling the inventory, store leases, fixtures and intellectual property." Bon-Ton had been working with a group of investors including two mall developers on a going-concern bid. But last week the judge overseeing the department store retailer's case nixed a proposal to pay the investor group a fee of $500,000 to compensate them for due diligence costs. The group was not among the bidders at Monday's auction, according to Reuters' reporting. On April 11, 2018, it was reported, Bon-Ton Stores' lifeline may have slipped through the bankrupt retailer's grasp. A federal bankruptcy judge rejected a $500,000 fee that Bon-Ton requested to pay a group of investors interested in buying the company out of bankruptcy to keep it operating. A spokesperson for Bon-Ton did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The fee was included in the letter of intent signed by the investor group, made up of financial firm DW Partners as well as real estate firms Namdar Realty Group and Washington Prime Group, which operate malls in which Bon-Ton is a significant tenant. The retailer disclosed the potential bid on Monday. Kelley Cornish, a partner with Paul Weiss, representing Bon-Ton in its bankruptcy case, said at the hearing the fee was to help the investor group recoup their costs of due diligence and was necessary to secure the bid, according to an audio file of the hearing. Steve Zelin, a partner with investment banking firm PJT Partners working on the department store retailer's restructuring, said at a court hearing Wednesday that no other interested parties had received such reimbursement. Cornish described the bid from Namdar and Washington Prime as "the last and only opportunity for the debtors to continue operating in business." On April 10, 2018, it was reported, Bon-Ton Stores has negotiated a bid from a group of investors that would keep the department store retailer alive and operating, according to a press release. The group, made up of financial firm DW Partners as well as real estate firms Namdar Realty Group and Washington Prime Group, has signed a letter of intent proposing a going-concern acquisition of Bon-Ton, which filed for Chapter 11 in February. According to the letter, the bid would offer no less than $128 million in cash and would include "substantially all" of Bon-Ton's assets. Last week, the court also cleared the way for a group of Bon-Ton bondholders to submit a bid that would wind down the company and liquidate its assets to pay off lenders. Earlier in April Bon-Ton announced that it was in talks with a potential bidder for a going-concern transaction to buy at least a part of the company out of bankruptcy. This week, the retailer extended the auction for its assets to April 16 to allow more time for due diligence, with court hearings to approve the winning bid to follow in April. Bon-Ton said it was working with the investor group to finalize a purchase agreement.
    • On April 18, 2018, Big Lots announced that David Campisi is stepping down as president, CEO and a member of its board of directors, after five years as its chief executive. Campisi had been on a leave of absence for medical reasons since December, and has now decided to retire to focus fully on his health and on community service, the company said in a press release. Lisa Bachmann, executive vice president, chief merchandising and operating officer, and Timothy Johnson, executive vice president, chief administrative officer and CFO, had been working with the company's executive leadership team and board of directors to carry out his executive responsibilities, and that will continue as the company searches for his replacement, the company said. Big Lots is in the midst of a branding pivot that has the discount retailer focusing more on furniture sales. The retailer in February tapped Stephen Haffer, previously a longtime executive at furniture retail company American Signature, as senior vice president and chief customer officer.
    • On April 18, 2018, it was reported, Toys R Us has rejected as too low an $890 million bid from MGA Entertainment CEO Isaac Larian for the toy retailer's Canadian business and 200 U.S. stores, according to reports from the Wall Street Journal and CNN, both of which cited unnamed sources. Toys R Us attorneys did not immediately reply to Retail Dive's request for comment. According to the Journal, Larian's offer did not "meet the qualified bid threshold under the court-approved auction procedures" and so Toys R Us took the offer off the table, a source told the newspaper. Larian said in a statement emailed to Retail Dive that he hadn't been notified of the rejection, but said if true the development "is very disappointing." The retailer adjourned the bankruptcy auction for its Canadian unit yesterday and will now hold it on April 23, according to a court filing. Larian added in his statement that he hopes and expects to participate in the bid process. "We feel confident that we submitted a fair valuation of the company's U.S. assets in an effort to save the business and over 130,000 domestic jobs," he said. On April 16, 2018, it was reported, MGA Entertainment CEO Isaac Larian has upped the ante in his attempt to save Toys R Us from liquidation. Last week, the executive submitted a $890 million bid for the retailer's Canadian business and a chunk of its U.S. business, according to a press release emailed to Retail Dive. Larian's bid included $215 million for the company's 80 Canadian stores and another $675 million that would, according to a spokesperson for Larian, preserve 200 stores in the U.S. The move follows a crowdfunding campaign led by Larian to raise $1 billion to save the toy store chain that only managed to raise $60,000 beyond Larian's startup donation of $200 million. Toys R Us had previously announced it aimed to sell its Canadian unit, and sell 200 of its top-performing U.S. stores as part of a potential deal. Even as it does so, the company is going through the motions of winding down its entire U.S. business. Friday was the bid deadline for Toys R Us' Canadian unit. The company did not immediately respond to questions from Retail Dive about all bids it received. An auction for the Canadian business is set for Wednesday. On April 13, 2018, it was reported, Toys R Us has an opportunity to sell much its overseas business, thanks to several bids of more than $1 billion for an 85% stake in its Asia operations, Reuters reports. Previous reports indicated that the Fung Group, which owns a stake in the joint venture for the unit, is set to bid on the remaining stake. The bankrupt company, which is winding down its United Kingdom and U.S. operations, is also in "advance discussions" with a party interested in its Central European business, according to Reuters, which quotes statements by the company's attorneys in bankruptcy court. Toys R Us is still trying to save 200 of its top-performing domestic stores as part of a deal for its Canadian business. Meanwhile, liquidation sales and real estate auctions are ongoing after the company announced plans to wind down its entire U.S. business in March. The toy retailer's attorney said in court that domestic liquidation sales were going better than expected, generating more money to repay creditors, according to the Reuters report.
    • On April 13, 2018, it was reported, the piecemeal sell-off of Sears Holdings' various assets continues. The department store retailer is working with Cushman & Wakefield and online auction platform Real Insight Marketplace to auction off some 16 store properties around the country. Real Insight is marketing the properties as potential repositioning and sale-leaseback opportunities for buyers. The stores, most of them in Texas, Missouri, Ohio and Indiana, range between 100,000 square feet and more than 240,000 square feet. Bids for the properties are due May 1. A managing director for Real Insight's owner, CWCapital, told the Wall Street Journal that the online auction process was "highly transparent for everyone, and levels the playing field." Cushman & Wakefield Managing Director Sean Hayes told the Journal that more than 200 groups had expressed interest in the property so far. A Sears spokesperson told Retail Dive in an email that the sale-leaseback stores in the auction part of a series of real estate transactions over the past 18 months wherein the company has continued leasing and operating at the properties are tied to an agreement with the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., which provided a new loan to Sears in March.