The future of Aéropostale Inc. — and employee jobs — likely won’t be known until next week.
There are two active bids for the bankrupt retailer, one from private equity firm Sycamore Partners and the other from a consortium comprised of Authentic Brands Group, Gordon Brothers Group, Hilco Merchant Resources, Simon Property and General Growth Properties.
Authentic Brands Group, headed by chief executive officer Jamie Salter, is believed to be the point person leading the charge by the consortium. That bid at around $250 million is for 300 U.S. stores, and if successful would enable Aéropostale to exit bankruptcy proceedings as a going concern. It would also keep jobs at about 300 international stores, franchised operations that are not part of the U.S. proceeding, since those operations need the U.S. business to provide both inventory and equity to the brand name.
ABG’s bid is a bold move that would save many jobs in the retail sector, particularly since so many have already been lost either through routine store closures, bankruptcy shutdowns such as the liquidation of The Sports Authority and organizational changes such as the 200 jobs lost at Chico’s Inc. and the planned 7,000 back office job cuts at Wal-Mart.
It wasn’t immediately clear how Sycamore’s bid was structured, such as whether it used its secured creditor status to credit bid. Sycamore’s affiliate Aero Investors was a prepetition lender at $150 million to the distressed teen retailer. During the bankruptcy, Sycamore had been pushing for a liquidation and it didn’t appear that Sycamore had submitted a going concern bid.
The expectation now is that Aéropostale, Sycamore and the ABG-led consortium, as well as other constituency groups, will be in discussions over the weekend to find a resolution for Aéropostale’s future. While ABG is presumed to have the highest offer on the table, whether that’s the better offer depends on the terms that are included in each of the two bids.
Executives at Sycamore and ABG declined comment. A spokeswoman for Aéropostale said: “It would be premature to speculate on any potential outcome at this time, but Aéropostale remains hopeful that an agreement will be reached that preserves corporate and retail jobs, and allows the company to operate its e-commerce and international licensing business moving forward.”