Pedestrians walk past a branch of the lingerie shop, Agent Provocateur in central London, Britain, 03 March 2017. British media report Agent Provocateur, which has 10 stores in the UK and employs 600 people has been bought by a firm linked to British businessman, Mike Ashley, the owner of Sports Direct.Agent Provocateur in London, United Kingdom - 03 Mar 2017

Agent Provocateur’s U.S. landlords are not taking kindly to the struggling lingerie brand using bankruptcy to avoid paying rent.

Bal Harbour Shops LLP and Mercer Street LLC, owners of retail space Agent Provocateur Inc. operated out of in Florida and New York, respectively, are looking to force the retailer to pay past due rent totaling about $140,000 that went unpaid in the months leading up to its April bankruptcy filing.

Agent Provocateur Inc. is the U.S. operating subsidiary of U.K.-based Agent Provocateur Ltd., which was pulled out of administration in England through a purchase by Four Holdings, a fashion showroom and marketing company controlled by billionaire Mike Ashley.

But the U.S. landlords say the retailer stopped paying rent at the beginning of this year, months before it went for bankruptcy protection, which also came at least several weeks after Agent Provocateur was formally notified of its rent default.

Bal Harbour Shops had even started eviction proceedings given the last payment of $18,293 in base monthly rent it had received from Agent Provocateur came in December. Mercer Street said its last $41,091 rent payment came in February, according to court filings.

Moreover, both landlords claim they put Agent Provocateur on notice of its rent default in and then terminated the leases in enough time to have their claims excused from an automatic stay, essentially a hold put on any prospective creditors taking action against an entity immediately after entering bankruptcy protection.

In the Florida location, Bal Harbour Shops also said that Agent Provocateur is still using the premises and “appears to have no intent to pay rent or use and occupancy charges” while its bankruptcy proceeding continues.

Both landlords asked the bankruptcy court to allow collection of past due rent and Bal Harbour Shops is looking to continue with its eviction action.

An Agent Provocateur representative could not be reached immediately for comment.

When the U.S.-based leg of the brand filed Chapter 11 last month, it listed liabilities between $10 million and $50 million and assets of only between $1 million and $10 million. A majority of its listed creditors were landlords.

Although the recent sale of the parent company to Four Holdings did not include any rights to subsidiary assets, Agent Provocateur said at the time of the filing that a Four Holdings affiliate has “expressed an interest” in purchasing 12 U.S. retail locations.

The Four Holdings affiliate set to buy the U.S. locations has agreed to fund certain operations “to the extent necessary” during the bankruptcy process, while acting as the stalking-horse bidder for the 12 stores, according to court documents.

While Chapter 11 sales are subject to a court-monitored auction in an effort to lure higher and better offers, the Agent Provocateur subsidiary is asking that the sale process be expedited.

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