Hope a whiter Ritter would retire to save Bon-Ton Stores Inc. faded in its bankruptcy auction Tuesday, leaving the company in the limelight – a last-minute surprise – of entering the growing list of retail chains to go out of business
The only two bids at the beginning of a department store bankruptcy auction were liquidators, which meant the end for a trader who was once part of Wisconsin's retail industry backbone, closed at a New York law firm.
Reuters said, citing two sources that are familiar with the matter, that Bon-Ton will drop out of business without an offer from a going concern bidder. The New York-based research firm Reorg Research, also citing sources, also reported that two liquidators were the bidders when the auction finally began late Monday evening.
Bon Sound Managers had hoped to find a buyer who would help out the fortunes of the merchant who is the parent company of Boston Store, Younkers and other stores.
A buzz-tone spokesman did not respond immediately to views on the auction on Tuesday.
It may still be for a company like another department store chain to buy at least parts of Bon-Ton from the auction-winning liquidator, bankruptcy attorneys said. Or someone could come in the 11th hour and make an offer.
But attorney David Wander, whose New York firm Davidoff Hutcher & Citron represents two pay-tone sellers, said in an interview on Tuesday that there was very little chance Bon-Ton could avoid liquidation.
"It would not be really appropriate to hold an offer that comes from the left field," said Wander. "If you make such an offer and it is so unbelievably phenomenal for everyone, the bankruptcy court has the ability to bend its own rules, so to speak, but I do not see that on the horizon, so it looks like Bon-Ton in It's very sad. "
RELATED: Boston Store: The Pulse of" The Heart of Milwaukee "Is Weak  A judge still has to stand in a hearing at the US -Decognition Court in Delaware on the prevailing offer unsubscribe. If it does, and it is from a liquidator, the clock would likely tick for more than 700 jobs in Bon-Ton's Downtown Milwaukee co-headquarters and more than 2,200 in total around the state.
The proceeds from the sale and liquidation of assets were paid toward creditors.
Bon sound was not profitable since 2010. Mall-based department stores are among the hardest hit as traffic in the malls has declined and more consumers are ordering products from online retailers. Bon Ton stores have been an anchor in Wisconsin's shopping malls and shopping centers for decades.
Bon-Ton, the parent company of the Boston business, has filed bankruptcy Sunday night. Reporter Paul Gores talks about what happened and what it means to buyers.
When Bon-Ton filed for bankruptcy on February 11, management announced it would find a new investor or buyer for the company.
A bon sound consultant contacted 28 potential investors this winter to restructure or sell the company. It has also contacted two groups of liquidators. The liquidators were already bidding in January, but investors who were interested in keeping the company alive were harder to find.
Last week, Bon-Ton received a letter of intent – but not a formal offer – for the company from an investor group including two mall owners and a New York investment firm: Namdar Realty Group, Great Neck, NY, Washington Prime Group, Columbus, Ohio , and hedge fund DW Partners.
But this potential offer suffered a setback when US bankruptcy The court-appointed judge said Bon-Ton could not pay $ 500,000 in due diligence and other fees to the mall's owners and investment firm. Bon-Ton lawyers had presented this $ 500,000 reimbursement as a requirement for the owners of the mall and DW Partners to make an official offer.
In Chapter 11, a group called the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors, which represents employees and hundreds of landlords and sellers, has supported management's efforts to sell the business to investors who would take it further. In a lawsuit, the committee said the investor group, which includes mall owners, "was the last and only hope to rescue Bon-Ton from the fate of so many retailers who filed for bankruptcy during this retail apocalypse."
"It was not the lack of attempts that something did not happen," said Wander. "The committee advocates have done as good a job as anyone could have expected."
Bon-Ton is among the top six retailers to declare bankruptcy in 2018, and one of more than 40 in the last five years, shows information from Bankruptcydata .com. Other well-known trade names that have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy are: Claire's Stores Inc., Nine West Holdings Inc., Walking Company Holdings Inc., Toys R Us Inc., Gymboree Corp., Rue21 Inc., Payless Inc., Hggregg Inc and The Sports Authority Inc.
According to Reorg Research, the Bon Ton Bankruptcy Auction began with only two qualified bids – one from the liquidators Hilco Merchant Services and Gordon Brothers Retail Partners and the other from a group of creditors and Liquidators Great American Group.
"They've been sticking out for a long time, but it seems they have fallen victim to some of the trends in recent years that cost the market share of department stores in general," said consultant Dick Seesel, owner of the Mequon-based retailer in Focus. "You are certainly not the first company to fight for survival."
Burt P. Flickinger III, Managing Director of the Strategic Resource Group, a New York City-based consumer goods consultancy, believes the system is flawed
"Bankruptcy lawyers and judges only take what breaks down and break it and crush it so it can not be repaired, "said Flickinger.
Flickinger added, "With the right plan, somebody would buy bon." But the way the lawyers and the bankruptcy judge and the bankruptcy lawyer's adviser work is like Toys R Us. Wrong people, wrong plan. "
Retail consultant Anne Brouwer said the Bon Ton department stores were squeezed by stationary competition across the entire price spectrum and by online retailers.
" There is tremendous pressure from up and down, especially off the ground, "said Brouwer, senior partner at McMillanDoolittle in Chicago.
Although the Boston Store name has been part of Milwaukee for more than 100 years, Bon-Ton first came to Wisconsin in 2003 when he joined the Elder-Beerman's department store chain, which had five stores in the state, had nearly $ 93 million. Bon-Ton's major expansion in Wisconsin came in 2006 when it acquired the Saks Inc. Northern Group based in Milwaukee for approximately $ 1.05 billion The Saks Inc. Northern Group included the department stores Boston Store, Carson Pirie Scott, Bergner, Herberger and Younkers.
With this transaction, the then second largest department store chain in the USA with about 280 locations. Only Dillard's, at 329, was taller.
The merchandising and marketing units remained in Milwaukee – where Boston Store was founded in 1897 – and gave the city two headquarters at Bon-Ton's York, Pennsylvania. Joe Taschler from the Journal Sentinel team contributed to this report.
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