U.S. mall owners Washington Prime Group and Namdar Realty Group will bid together to save department store chain Bon-Ton from liquidation, according to court documents filed Monday that were reviewed by CNBC. Alternative asset manager DW Partners will also be working with them.
It was reported last week that the two landlords would attempt to acquire the embattled retailer out of bankruptcy. Bon-Ton, which operates other mall-based chains including Carson's, Younkers and Herberger's, is a tenant of Washington Prime's and Namdar's properties.
Earlier this month, Bon-Ton had received approval from its lenders to extend the deadline for submitting qualified bids, and an auction is now set for April 16.
In doing so, the department store chain has sparked outrage from a group of creditors that wants Bon-Ton to liquidate entirely.
Bon-Ton operated roughly 250 stores when it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February. It had already started liquidating some of its assets — planning to close about 40 stores under various banners across the U.S. at the time.
In securing funding to make the deal work, it's been reported that Washington Prime and Namdar will use their properties to raise debt to finance the acquisition. The court documents said the mall owners would acquire "substantially all of" Bon-Ton's assets.
Both Washington Prime and Namdar didn't immediately respond to CNBC's requests for comment.
"We are pleased to have received this signed letter of intent and are advancing our discussions with the investor group to complete an asset purchase agreement as we proceed toward the court-supervised auction," Bon-Ton CEO Bill Tracy said Monday in a statement about Washington Prime, Namdar and DW Partners. "With the help of our advisors, we will evaluate all qualified bids and are committed to maximizing value and pursuing the best path forward for the Company and our stakeholders."
This wouldn't be the first time two mall owners joined forces to save a struggling retailer in a bid to keep stores from going vacant, especially when a key tenant is involved. Simon and GGP, for example, bid roughly $240 million in 2016 to save teen apparel retailer Aeropostale from liquidating. The deal helped keep hundreds of stores opened.
Columbus, Ohio-based Washington Prime is a spin-off from Simon and owns interests in a little more than 100 properties today. Namdar, based in Great Neck, New York, also has about 100 properties including medical and office buildings. DW Partners, also based in New York, has provided bankruptcy financing to struggling retailers such as RadioShack in the past.