New York-based private-equity firm Sycamore Partners reportedly has the highest offer to buy the company and merge it with North Carolina-based Belks, another struggling department store chain with 300 stores located mostly in the South.
While the deal is still subject to approval from the court as well as from J.C. Penney's lenders, creditors and board, Sycamore has been in the lead since bids were due on July 22, according to the New York Post.
Also in the running for J.C. Penney is Saks Fifth Avenue owner Hudson's Bay, which offered $1.7 billion, and mall operators Simon Property (SPG) - Get Report and Brookfield Property (BPY) - Get Report, which have teamed up with a $1.65 billion offer.
Both J.C. Penney and Belks, founded in 1888, have been hit by declining sales not only from the coronavirus pandemic but also from competition from the likes of Amazon.com (AMZN) - Get Report. J.C. Penney was also on the hook for $5 billion in debt when it filed for bankruptcy protection in mid-May.
Sycamore’s plan involves rebranding some 250 J.C. Penney stores to Belks stores in markets where the two retailers don't overlap, according to the Post. The rest of the J.C. Penney locations would be liquidated.
Plano, Texas-based J.C. Penney operated 850 stores when it filed for bankruptcy protection on May 15. Last week it said it was cutting 1,000 workers and closing 152 stores, with plans to shutter 250 of its remaining 846 stores by the end of summer 2021.