Amid increasing chatter, Sam Ben-Avraham lodged a bid for Barneys on Wednesday, the court-ordered cut-off for those vying for the troubled retailer. Having filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in August, citing between $100 million and $500 million in debt, New York-headquartered Barneys has been trying to avoid liquidation by way of a buyer for its assets – from upscale inventory, such as Balenciaga and Balmain to Givenchy and Prada – to its retail outposts and its intellectual property.
In an October 16 filing with a U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York, Authentic Brands – the brand developer that maintains a wide roster of fashion and apparel companies, ranging from Juicy Couture and Judith Leiber to Jones New York, Volcom, and Aeropostale – in conjunction with investment firm B. Riley Financial Inc. put up a $271 million stalking-horse bid for Barneys.
In furtherance of the “tentative” deal, Authentic Brands Group and B. Riley Financial Inc. would acquire Barneys New York’s assets, and likely close all of its remaining stores (although, sources say it could be possible that a few stores would remain open). Implicit in that deal is yet another deal, though, one between Authentic Brands/B. Riley Financial and Saks Fifth Avenue-owner Hudson’s Bay Co., in which Authentic Brands/B. Riley Financial would “license the Barneys name to Hudson’s Bay Co.”
Fast forward to October 23 and Ben-Avraham and a consortium of investors would also make a play for Barneys to the tune of $260 million. Ben-Avraham, a retail investor and the co-founder of New York-based streetwear brand Kith, confirmed the bid on Wednesday.
No small number of media outlets have been quick to report that Barneys shot down Ben-Avraham’s initial offer on Thursday, making Authentic Brands the final victor, and citing a statement from a rep for Authentic Brands, who revealed that Authentic Brands is “currently the only qualified bidder for Barneys,” and expects to complete its purchase of Barneys intellectual property on October 31, subject to customary closing procedures. Barneys’ counsel Joshua Sussberg of Kirkland & Ellis LLP, echoed that sentiment, telling Judge Cecelia G. Morris of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Poughkeepsie, New York on Thursday, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, “We are scheduled to seek your honor’s approval of that bid on Halloween—next Thursday.”
However, also on Thursday, a spokesperson for Barneys said otherwise. In a statement provided to CNBC, a rep for the chain said, “Barneys is continuing to work towards a value-maximizing going-concern transaction, including in relation to a potential transaction led by Sam Ben-Avraham and his group of financial, operational, and strategic partners, up to and including the October 31 sale hearing.
In short: this is not a done deal just yet. As the WSJ aptly noted, “Ben-Avraham has until October 31 to make another attempt to buy Barneys out of bankruptcy,” when the company plans to seek approval for the Authentic Brands/B. Riley offer at a hearing before Judge Morris.