Sycamore Eyes Purchase of Ann Taylor, Loft Out of Bankruptcy

Sycamore Partners is finalizing a plan to buy assets of bankrupt Ascena Retail Group Inc., including the Ann Taylor and Loft brands, according to people familiar with the matter.

The private equity firm is offering to buy the brands from Ascena before the company asks for court permission to confirm its bankruptcy plan, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the bid isn’t public. Sycamore and Ascena are negotiating over price and talks are ongoing, the people added.

The offer would need court and creditor approval, the people said. Representatives for Sycamore Partners and Ascena declined to comment.

Ascena shares rose as much as 10 cents to around 39 cents, their highest price since September, after Bloomberg reported on the planned sale.

Ascena’s bankruptcy plan left room for a potential bidder to emerge through a sale process while also allowing lenders to take control of the business if a buyer didn’t materialize. Reorg, a distressed-debt news provider, earlier reported on some elements of Sycamore’s offer.

Confirmation Hearing

A hearing to confirm the company’s Chapter 11 reorganization plan was delayed to Tuesday, Dec. 1 when U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin R. Huennekens will be asked to approve and finalize the plan in court.

Ascena recently got court permission to sell its Justice brand to an entity formed by licensing firm Bluestar Alliance LLC for about $90 million. Bluestar had the highest and best offer over lower bids from an entity called Premier Brands Justice and an affiliate of WHP Global, Bloomberg reported.

After a string of acquisitions, Mahwah, New Jersey-based Ascena struggled with dated brands, declining revenue and a high debt load. Then, the Covid-19 pandemic froze much consumer spending and its business was thrown into disarray by temporary store closures. The company shut its shops in mid-March as the outbreak spread, and began to reopen locations in early May as state authorities lifted restrictions.

The company filed for bankruptcy in July with plans to cull its 2,800 stores to just 1,200. Its plan was to cut debt by about $1 billion and hand ownership to lenders including Bain Capital and Monarch Alternative Capital. Bloomberg first reported in July that New York-based Sycamore Partners was interested in the assets.

The case is Ascena Retail Group, 20-33113, U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Eastern District of Virginia. To view the docket on Bloomberg Law, click here.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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