The $1.75 billion rescue deal for J.C. Penney would preserve about 70,000 jobs. Plus, Century 21 Stores has filed for bankruptcy with plans to shut down.

(Bloomberg)—J.C. Penney Co.’s lenders have agreed to team up with mall landlords Simon Property Group Inc. and Brookfield Property Partners to buy the bankrupt chain of department stores.

The $1.75 billion rescue deal, which would preserve about 70,000 jobs, includes a $300 million equity investment by the landlords, Joshua Sussberg of Kirkland & Ellis said on behalf of J.C. Penney in a Wednesday bankruptcy hearing. It also calls for new financing from existing lenders and would ultimately leave the retailer with about $1 billion, subject to certain transaction costs and a working capital adjustment, Sussberg said.

The financing includes a commitment for $2 billion of new asset-based lending led by Wells Fargo, as well as $500 million of so-called takeback debt from existing first-lien lenders, he said. The deal would split J.C. Penney into an operating company and two real estate holding companies, one owning 161 stores and the other holding distribution centers, with a master lease agreement between the two sides.

“The transaction between the lenders, the company, and Simon and Brookfield contemplates a $1.75 billion total enterprise, plus a post-closing earn-out and a significantly negotiated working capital adjustment,” Sussberg said in the hearing. The deal could still fall through and it requires court approval, which the retailer intends to seek in early October.

“Time, as we’ve mentioned over and over again, is not our friend,” Sussberg said. “It is importantfor this transaction to stay together and for all these stores to stay open and for the 70-plus-thousand employees to stay employedfor us to move with lightning speed.”

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CEO Jill Soltau called the agreement “the best path forward” for stakeholders. “The interest in our operations reflects our company’s strength and our loyal customer base.”

The lender group was already set to take over most of J.C. Penney’s real estate at the outset of the bankruptcy case, with a plan that would have involved spinning the properties into a real estate investment trust and selling the rest of the retailer to the highest bidder. The attempts to reach a sale agreement with outside bidders hit roadblocks as the case dragged on.

“A joint purchase of bankrupt J.C. Penney would help Simon Property preserve occupancy at large anchor boxes that may be difficult to fill amid a pandemic-driven climb in vacancy,” Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Lindsay Dutch wrote in a research note.

J.C. Penney is No. 32 in the 2020 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000.

Century 21 files bankruptcy and plans to shut down

Century 21 Stores (No. 482 in the Top 1000), an iconic New York off-price department store chain, filed for bankruptcy with plans to shut down, becoming the latest victim of the retail industry carnage that’s accelerated during the pandemic.
The retailer will hold going out of business sales at its 13 stores in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Florida, according to a company statement. The company listed assets and liabilities of as much as $500 million each in its bankruptcy petition filed Thursday.

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The company had “no viable alternative” to shutting down after its insurance providers failed to pay some $175 million Century 21 claims it’s owed under business interruption policies, Co-CEO Raymond Gindi said in the statement.

The insurance companies “turned their backs on us at this most critical time,” Gindi said. “While retailers across the board have suffered greatly due to COVID-19, and Century 21 is no exception, we are confident that had we received any meaningful portion of the insurance proceeds, we would have been able to save thousands of jobs and weather the storm.”

Disputes over business interruption insurance have been landing in court in droves, with insurers contending that pandemics aren’t covered. More than 1,100 insurance lawsuits tied to Covid-19 have been filed nationwide, according to data compiled by law firm Hunton Andrews Kurth.

Century 21 has sued several of its insurance providers over the failure to pay, the company said. It’ll move that lawsuit into bankruptcy court and seek a speedy adjudication, according to the statement.

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