Aerosoles has shifted its bankruptcy strategy from a restructuring to an outright asset sale.
The mall-based women’s footwear brand on Friday accepted a preliminary, or “stalking horse,” bid of $26.2 million for the majority of its assets from Alden Global Capital, a New York-based hedge fund that’s best-known for its holdings in media, communications and manufacturing.
When Aerosoles, also known as Aerogroup International Inc., initially filed bankruptcy in September, the company said it was planning to restructure its operations, mainly by trimming its retail footprint of 80 stores to “realign the business with the changing marketplace environment.” The goal was to reemerge in around four months.
And that plan seems to have been moving forward, with a new company subsidiary, Aero Brand Holdings, set to take control of Aerosoles’ business as of last week. Then Alden apparently made its offer, which Aerogroup admitted provided “higher or otherwise better value” than its original plan, according to court records.
Aerogroup said its independent director and its bankruptcy lender “are in support of moving forward with Alden as the stalking horse bidder.”
Alden’s $26 million bid is still technically subject to higher offers, but that seems unlikely, given an approval hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.
A representative of Aerosoles and Alden could not be reached for comment. No plan for the continuation of Aerosoles has been filed with the court.
Alden is not a complete newcomer to retail, as it has a minority 24.26 percent stake in Fred’s Inc., a discount pharmacy chain located mostly throughout the southeastern U.S., but Aerosoles looks to be its first foray into fashion retail.
The fund manages about $2 billion in assets and has investments in the manufacturing, energy and telecom space, but is increasingly involved in the local media outlets and newspapers. In 2011, Alden acquired Journal-Register and MediaNews Group, both operators of many local newspapers and radio stations in the U.S., including the Orange County Register and the Denver Post. In 2013, after many, many staff cuts and property sales, Alden combined the companies to form Digital First Media.
Digital First has a complex ownership structure. While Alden is the force behind its creation and is the owner, its parent company is listed publicly as 21st Century Media, which is owned by Hearst Newspapers, a subsidiary of Hearst Communications, which operates a number of fashion magazines.
Just last week, Alden made a winning $12 million bid for the daily The Boston Herald, which in December filed for bankruptcy after 172 years in operation.
The fund was founded by Randall Smith, who at 74, still serves as its chief of investments. Although he keeps a low profile, public campaign records show Smith to be a regular contributor to Republican politicians, like Marco Rubio and John Boehner.
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