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Barneys to wrap up US$270m bankruptcy deal to reopen stores

Acquirer of labels Authentic Brands will save Barneys' flagship and key stores

New York

US luxury department-store chain Barneys New York Inc is nearing a roughly US$270 million deal with brand developer Authentic Brands Group that could lead to Barneys shops opening in Saks Fifth Avenue stores, people familiar with the matter said on Monday.

Without an offer from Authentic Brands, Barneys faced winding down its business entirely. It filed for bankruptcy protection in August, citing rent hikes as a factor in its decision.

Authentic Brands' offer for Barneys calls for a handful of its storied brick-and-mortar outposts to remain open, potentially including its flagship Madison Avenue store in Manhattan and its Beverly Hills, California, location, the sources said.

Whether the existing retail locations remain open will depend on negotiations with landlords, they said.

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Barneys currently has seven physical retail locations remaining. As part of the Authentic Brands deal, it will license the Barneys name to Hudson's Bay Co, the owner of luxury department store chain Saks Fifth Avenue, the sources said.

The agreement would also allow Hudson's Bay to operate the Barneys website, one of the sources said.

The expected deal with Authentic Brands sets a floor for bids in a bankruptcy-court auction scheduled for later this month, should any arise.

A group led by fashion executive Sam Ben-Avraham has explored a bid for Barneys and is continuing to work on a potential deal that envisions keeping many of the retailer's current stores open, one of the sources said.

"We are encouraged by the strong buyer interest and recognition of the value in the Barneys assets and brand name," Barneys chief executive officer Daniella Vitale said. "We continue to work diligently on the sale process with the goal of maximising value and ensuring a long and successful future for the benefit of our employees, customers, vendors and other business partners."

The sources spoke on the condition they not be identified because the discussions are confidential. Authentic Brands is a prolific acquirer of labels, including Nine West. The Wall Street Journal reported on the value of Authentic Brands' bid for Barneys and its partnership with Hudson's Bay earlier on Monday.

Barneys is one of the most high-profile victims of the downturn in retail, and underscores how even luxury department stores are not immune from fierce competition with e-commerce firms such as Inc.

Sears Holdings Corp, Toys "R" Us Inc and Gymboree Group Inc have also filed for bankruptcy in the last two years. In addition to its upscale department stores and Freds restaurants, Barneys operates Barneys Warehouse outlets.

The nearly 100-year-old retailer's most prominent locations include Beverly Hills, California; Chicago; Seattle; Boston; San Francisco; and Las Vegas. REUTERS

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