Barneys New York gained a bit more breathing room — and found it still has enough cache to gather at least a small crowd.
The bankrupt retailer received five letters of intent from parties interested enough in buying all or part of the company to put pen to paper, according to sources. There are also said to be several other would-be buyers taking a close look at the company that could potentially jump into the process.
Barneys’ potential buyers are an eclectic group. Trade show veteran and Kith backer Sam Ben-Avraham is said to be one of two players to have submitted letters of intent that envision a deal to buy the company as a going concern. Authentic Brands Group is also believed to have officially signaled its interest. Among the players staying close to the process, but not believed to have submitted letters of interest, are Nordstrom Inc. and Neiman Marcus-parent Ares. Another strategic player is said to be very active in its interest.
ABG has been interested in Barneys since before the retailer’s August bankruptcy and WWD previously identified Ares as a player that considered the possibility of a deal. Nordstrom declined to comment and a representative for Ben-Avraham did not return multiple requests for comment.
The turnout was strong enough to encourage the lenders supporting Barneys in bankruptcy — Brigade Capital Management and B. Riley Financial Inc. — to put off the potential start of a liquidation by nearly a week, until Oct. 3. That is a vital lifeline giving all parties time to pin down some kind of an agreement, but time is still of the essence. Multiple sources suggested next week’s deadline could be extended again if it appears the company is close to securing a binding bid that could serve as a stalking horse in a bankruptcy auction.
“Barneys management and advisers are working closely with all the parties to develop one or more letters of intent into a going-concern sale [process],” Barneys attorney Chad Husnick of Kirkland & Ellis LLP told New York bankruptcy judge Cecelia Morris in a telephone conference on Friday.
He alluded to some of the delicate and tense deliberations behind the sale efforts.
“We’re being very cautious for a whole host of reasons,” Husnick told the judge during the phone conference. “At the same time, we must continue to exhaust every avenue to keep the business operational.
“Continued DIP lender and vendor support is vital to this process,” he said.
One source said Barneys is not performing as well as expected during its bankruptcy, at least in part because vendors have been reluctant to ship. The company logged revenues of $31.6 million and a loss of $16.3 million during the last three weeks of August, according to court filings.
While the extra time to firm up a deal certainly helps, Barneys is still living week by week — literally.
An attorney for the unsecured creditors’ committee, which includes vendors such as Prada and Chloe as well as landlords and a union, was tentative on the call.
“The situation is somewhat fluid right now,” said Brad Sandler of Pachulski Stang Ziehl & Jones, who represents the creditors.
“The debtors and committee have been working very closely and extensively to try to find a solution so that Barneys continues as a going concern with a substantial retail footprint of stores,” he said.
Sandler told WWD after the call that Barneys and the committee are hopeful about getting at least one of the parties that showed interest this week to submit a binding bid.
“We are very encouraged at least one of them will do [that], as they have been speaking to the landlord, vendor and lending communities,” he said. “All employees, vendors and landlords should rest assured that the committee will do whatever it has to do whenever to maximize the likelihood of a going concern bid with a maximum retail footprint.”
A Barneys representative said in a statement: “We are engaged in discussions with those interested parties as we continue to go through the formal bidding and sale process. We are working as hard as we can to secure a definitive agreement that will ensure the future of Barneys New York for the benefit of our talented employees, dedicated vendors and loyal customers.”
Already Barneys has made big changes in bankruptcy. The company exited 15 money-losing stores while in bankruptcy and is operating with just seven doors.
The most important is the Madison Avenue flagship — the rent for which continues to vex the retailer.
Last year, Barneys went to arbitration with Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp., which owns both the Madison Avenue building and Barneys’ Beverly Hills location, and walked away with a big rent hike that ultimately contributed to the company’s failure.
Now, Barneys’ suitors have to solve the same problem and negotiate an arrangement that will work for both landlord and tenant.
The looming threat of liquidation could help move those talks along.