Sam Ben-Avraham, the Project and Liberty Fairs founder, tossed a Hail Mary pass Sunday night, flooding the in-boxes of fashion industry executives with a personal plea to “Save Barneys” as he mounted a last-ditch effort to have a bankruptcy court prefer his potential offer over the stalking horse bid by Authentic Brands Group.
In an open letter, Ben-Avraham wrote: “In a few short days we are at risk of losing a cultural institution that has been an anchor point for the city for almost a century. Its impact on culture cannot be understated. The brand as we know it today will disappear from our lives if it becomes an intellectual property license operation. Its unique identity, its point of view, its cutting-edge agenda will be lost.”
Without naming names, he said that he and his “team believe we can do better.” He said they will “bring back the brand you’ve come to know and love and make it commercially viable for the future.”
He said his partners “have a solution that doesn’t involve mass layoffs or store closures.” He did not provide details of that plan, however.
The letter added that he will transform the business, “something other competing bidders are not interested in doing.”
He then implored the reader to help, first by signing a petition in solidarity, and then sought out financial assistance — an indication of the difficulties he faces in winning through bidding for Barneys.
“We are still closing out our final round, and looking for additional partners,” Ben-Avraham said. He then offered up an e-mail for interested, deep-pocketed friends to contact.
Ben-Avraham has partnered with a group that includes his brother, Uzi Ben-Abraham, owner of the real estate company Premier Equities; Ron Roman of Bergen Logistics; Khajak Keledjian, founder and former chief executive officer of Intermix; Ron Burkle of Yucaipa Companies, and Andrew Rosen, according to published reports.
The leading bidder right now is the intellectual property manager, Authentic Brands Group, which has offered $271.4 million for Barneys. It has an agreement in place with Hudson’s Bay Co. to then issue that company the license to possibly open Barneys stores within its Saks Fifth Avenue division.
Ben-Avraham’s group is reportedly ready to bid around $250 million and although the number is smaller than ABG’s offer, the creditors committee could convince the retailer to accept a lower offer that would keep the stores open and the 1,800 people employed.
The judge overseeing the case is expected to issue her ruling on Oct. 31.
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