JC Penney lenders to make bid for department store in bankruptcy

An empty parking lot is seen outside a closed JC Penney Co. store in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, on Thursday, April 16, 2020.

Luke Sharrett | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Talks had been progressing with three potential bidders, including the mall owners Simon Property Group and Brookfield, to salvage the department store chain J.C. Penney — and possibly keep hundreds of stores open for business. 

But those discussions have since hit a “stalemate,” and time is running out to keep the company alive, according to the department store chain’s attorney. 

Penney’s top lenders, including H/2 Capital Partners, are now set to make a credit bid to own the retailer as a standalone company, attorney Joshua Sussberg of Kirkland & Ellis said during a Monday bankruptcy court hearing. He said the transaction should be completed within 30 days. 

“Our lenders are no longer going to be held hostage in negotiations with third parties,” Sussberg said. “While it is possible that one of the bidders comes back into the transaction, we can no longer stand idly by and allow for negotiating postures to stand in the way of 70,000 jobs and our vendor base.” 

He added that Penney is set to close a number of additional stores, as talks with bidders have fallen through. The department store chain last month announced it would be laying off roughly 1,000 employees, as it moved forward with shutting about 150 locations across the U.S. When it filed for bankruptcy, it was still operating about 860 stores. 

“Several locations that were on our original closing list but were removed … because of negotiations … will be closed promptly,” Sussberg said. 

Penney filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on May 15, weighed down by debt and battered by the coronavirus pandemic. 

At the end of July, Sussberg had said during a virtual hearing that Penney was moving forward with a sale set to be completed by this fall. A liquidation was “not in the cards,” he said at the time. 

The three bidders for Penney had included the private-equity firm Sycamore, a duo of Simon and Brookfield, and Saks Fifth Avenue owner Hudson’s Bay Co., according to a person familiar with these discussions. 

This story is developing. Please check back for updates. 

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