If the company trying to buy Barneys New York gets its way, there could be many more Barneys popping up inside Saks stores in the near future.
Authentic Brands Group, the licensing company that owns brands like Aeropostale and Juicy Couture, has put in a $271 million bid with B. Riley Financial to buy Barneys out of bankruptcy, according to a court filing.
The bid serves as a so-called stalking horse offer guaranteeing it will buy the retailer — unless another bidder offers more. Others, including a group of retail executives, are said to be vying for the company, people familiar with the talks told CNBC. If more bids are lodged, Barneys will hold an auction on Oct. 24.
As part of the Authentic Brands deal, it would put Barneys stores inside Saks, the luxury store owned by Hudson's Bay Company, a person familar with its plans said. Saks has 39 stores across 22 states.
Barneys filed for bankruptcy earlier this year as it struggled with waning sales and outsized rent.
The luxury department store called the bid "a positive step forward," and a "strong" recognition of the value of its assets and brand name.
"We are encouraged by the stalking horse bid by Authentic Brands Group in partnership with Saks Fifth Avenue," a Barneys spokesperson said in a statement. "Additionally, we appreciate the ongoing interest by Sam Ben-Avraham and are actively pursuing additional options with those who have expressed their intent to submit bids during the upcoming auction process."
Ben-Avraham is the co-founder of the streetwear brand Kith and owns a group of trade shows. He has joined with other investors to make a rival bid.
In bankruptcy, Barneys has whittled down its size from more than 10 of its namesake stores to five. While experts have said Barneys' brand in the luxury space remains strong, the future of its remaining stores has been in question.
Barneys did the most sales in its Madison Avenue store in New York, followed by online and its store in Beverly Hills, California. But both its Madison Avenue and Beverly Hills stores are in buildings owned by real estate investment company Ashkenazy Acquisition. The real estate investment firm doubled Barneys' rent last year, a move the retailer contested and said helped lead to its bankruptcy.
If Authentic Brands closes its deal for Barneys, it may still try to renegotiate the leases for some its best properties, including staying in Madison Avenue, but downsizing its presence, a person familiar with the situation said. Barneys has been on Madison Avenue for years and its inside infrastructure is complex, which may make it more difficult for Ashkenazy to find a replacement, this person said.
Regardless of whether its existing stores stay, Authentic Brands plans to put a number of Barneys stores inside Saks, the person said. While both are luxury stores, Barneys is considered the hipper cousin to Saks. Putting Barneys inside Saks would therefore echo a move it and some other department stores, including Macy's, have taken to add variety to their shopping experiences, in hopes of keeping it fresh and shoppers visiting more frequently.
Saks experiments with its stores in recent years include creating "wellness" centers. The brand is one of the brighter spots within parent Hudson's Bay Company's portfolio. Shares of HBC had fallen nearly 50% from the start of 2019 through June 10, when a consortium led by its executive chairman launched an offer to take it private.
That deal is still being pursued but has faced pushback from investors, including private equity firm Catalyst Capital Group, which has called the offer too low.
It is under review by a special independent committee appointed to assess the offer.
Meantime, the company has been streamlining its business to deal with its debt and sagging sales. In September, HBC announced plans to sell Lord & Taylor to clothing rental subscription service Le Tote for $100 million.
Officials from HBC, Authentic Brands and Barneys weren't immediately available to comment. B. Riley said it is "pleased to work with ABG in support of preserving the value of Barneys New York and its iconic brand."