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A Barneys liquidation grows more likely as rival deal falls flat

A Barney’s store stands in lower Manhattan on August 06, 2019 in New York City. Barneys, one of America’s most exclusive clothing stores, has filed for bankruptcy.

Spencer Platt | Getty Images

A deal led by retail investor Sam Ben-Avraham to buy Barneys New York out of bankruptcy fell flat in court Thursday, making the brand licensing company, Authentic Brands, the likely winner in an auction for the luxury department store, people familiar with the situation told CNBC.

Ben-Avraham, who has led a social media campaign to promote his offer, still has until Oct. 31 to cobble together a viable offer. If he or others cannot, however, Barneys’ future is unlikely to look much like its iconic past.

A spokesperson for Barneys said in a statement provided to CNBC, “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.”

Until then, Authentic Brands, which owns brands like Aeropostale and Juicy Couture, has tentatively secured a deal to buy Barneys’ intellectual property for $271 million. The deal, which is done in conjunction with investment bank B. Riley FBR, does not guarantee that any of Barneys’ stores stay open, or that the company does not liquidate entirely.

Barneys has five stores, less than half what it had before it filed for bankruptcy. It employs roughly 2,000 people.

Authentic Brands has been in talks with Barneys’ landlords about keeping at least one of its stores open, the people familiar with the situation said. Its focus has included Barneys’ best-performing stores, which are on New York City’s Madison Avenue and in Beverly Hills, California, the people said. Authentic Brands has made more progress with negotiations for the Beverly Hills store, they said, cautioning it remains possible that Barneys is unable to reach a deal on either.

Both properties are owned by real estate investment company Ashkenazy Acquisition. Ashkenazy earlier this year doubled Barneys rent on Madison Avenue, which helped contribute to its bankruptcy.

The Wall Street Journal reported it was possible the Boston store could remain open as well.

Meantime, Authentic Brands has also been in talks with Hudson’s Bay Co. about putting Barneys stores inside Saks, people familiar previously told CNBC.

A deal to do so has not yet been formalized, one of the people cautioned. Hudson’s Bay Capital is under its own pressure. The company earlier this week agreed to an offer from a consortium led by the executive chairman to take the company private in hope of shielding it from public scrutiny as it prepares its business for the upheaval that has rocked the department store industry.

The people requested anonymity because the negotiations are confidential.

A spokeswoman for B. Riley FBR told CNBC, “B. Riley Financial and our affiliates are pleased to work with ABG in support of preserving the value of Barneys New York and its iconic brand.”

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