Aeropostale Selling Business To Mall Group

Teen clothing retailer Aeropostale Inc. (AROPQ) will be selling its assets to a partnership of mall owners after receiving permission from the court for the deal. The group won a Sept. 2 auction for the business with a bid of $243 million. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Sean Lane approved the sale in Manhattan court Monday.

The group of buyers, led by Simon Property Group Inc. and General Growth Properties Inc., intends to keep at least 229 stores, saving the jobs that go with them. The arrangement is expected to save at least 7,000 jobs. The other members of the group include Authentic Brands Group LLC, Hilco Merchant Resources LLC and Gordon Brothers Retail Partners LLC. Liquidators Hilco and Gordon has agreed to conduct some store closing sales and provide working capital for the transactions.

The deal sets aside about $74 million to fund a Chapter 11 plan. The New York-based chain declared bankruptcy in May. A hearing to confirm the bankruptcy plan is expected in late November. The company will appear before Judge Lane again on Sept. 22 to seek approval for changes on an order allowing it to tap its lenders’ cash.

The unusual arrangement is a first for landlords Simon and General Growth. Simon was a landlord of more than 160 Aeropostale stores when the bankruptcy was filed. The chain had about 800 stores before it went into Chapter 11.

The Aug. 30 bid was a lifeline for the retailer, which seemed headed for liquidation. Prior to the mall group engaging in the process, the retailer only had bids to liquidate its assets and there were no bids to buy the company. The judge ruled that private-equity firm Sycamore Partners could use its debt from a $151 million prebankruptcy loan to Aéropostale as a currency at the bankruptcy auction. A joint venture of Tiger Capital Group and Great American Group made an opening offer for the assets of $184 million. The group mobilized days before the bidding deadline to craft what would become the winning offer.

The fate of the rest of the company’s roughly 10,000 employees is still unknown. The new owners are to decide who will stay from current management ranks. According to a state labor department filing, 228 employees at the West 34th Street headquarters have been informed that they will be laid off.