Brooks Brothers poised to be acquired by Authentic Brands-Simon venture

Brand-licensing company WHP Global Inc. has bowed out of the race for Brooks Brothers

Brand-licensing company WHP Global Inc. has bowed out of the race for Brooks Brothers Inc., according to people familiar with the matter, leaving a venture backed by apparel-licensing firm Authentic Brands Group LLC and mall owner Simon Property Group Inc. poised to take control of the bankrupt retailer.

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Like Authentic Brands, WHP Global buys consumer brands, often out of bankruptcy, and revives them by shedding unprofitable locations.

Sparc Group LLC, the Authentic Brands-Simon venture, had bid $305 million for Brooks Brothers last month. That "stalking horse" offer includes a commitment to keep 125 Brooks Brothers stores open. The retailer has roughly 200 stores in North America. The Sparc offer had been subject to better bids, but the deadline for rival offers passed last week.

A spokeswoman for Brooks Brothers declined to comment.

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WHP and Sparc had been vying to buy Brooks Brothers since before the retailer filed for bankruptcy.

A view of Brooks Brothers storefront closed during the COVID-19 crisis on May 06, 2020 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Andrew Chin/Getty Images)

WHP had submitted a bid for $334 million for Brooks Brothers in July, but the retailer deemed Sparc's offer a better deal. The firms also competed to provide Brooks Brothers a loan to finance its bankruptcy proceedings, a battle won by Sparc.

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Given that, WHP decided not to move forward with its offer, the people familiar said.

Sparc owns hundreds of Aéropostale, Forever 21 and Nautica stores. WHP, founded in 2018 with backing from Oaktree Capital Management LP, has bought the Joseph Abboud and Anne Klein brands cast off from struggling parent companies.

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Brooks Brothers filed for bankruptcy last month after more than two centuries in business, unable to withstand store closures due to the coronavirus pandemic. The company has struggled in recent years with a shift toward more casual dress styles at work.

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