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Bankruptcy judge approves sale of Express Inc to group led by WHP Global

A storefront of Express, Inc. a fashion apparel retailer, shown Jan. 22, 2020, in Paradise Valley, Ariz. A U.S. bankruptcy judge has approved the sale of Express Inc. to a consortium led by brand acquisition and management firm WHP Global — providing a lifeline to the struggling retailer and its hundreds of remaining stores. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, file)

NEW YORK (AP) — A U.S. bankruptcy judge has approved the sale of the majority of Express Inc. 's operations to a consortium led by brand acquisition and management firm WHP Global — providing a lifeline to the struggling retailer and its hundreds of remaining stores.

The offer includes $136 million in cash consideration and $38 million of liabilities set to be assumed by the buyers, court records show, for a combined $174 million. The sale was approved Friday, and the deal is set to close by June 21, subject to customary conditions.

Express Inc. owns the Express, Bonobos and UpWest brands. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April. At the time, Express said its bankruptcy filing would “facilitate the sale process" after receiving a non-binding letter of intent from a WHP-led group. The company also announced plans to close 95 Express retail stores and all 10 UpWest stores.

The group that won grant approval for the sale is a newly-formed retail operating platform called “Phoenix" — which WHP announced Friday in collaboration with mall operators Simon Property Group, Brookfield Properties and Centennial Real Estate.

Phoenix will operate all direct-to-consumer commerce for Express and Bonobos in the U.S., accoridng to WHP — maintaining the brands' more than 450 stores, e-commerce operations and nearly 7,000 jobs nationwide.

The Associated Press reached out to contacts for Express Inc. for further comments on Monday. Bloomberg reported that Express Inc. Chief Financial Officer Mark Still said in a sworn statement that the now-approved sale secures the company’s retail business and keeps almost all existing locations open.

WHP acquired a 60% stake in the Express brand's intellectual property back in January 2023. Months later, Express and WHP announced plans to acquire Bonobos from Walmart in a joint-venture.

Founded in 1980, Columbus, Ohio-based Express Inc. was a trendsetter of casual office attire. But in recent years the retailer has struggled to compete with the likes of Zara and H&M.

In its Chapter 11 petition earlier this year, filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware, Express Inc. reported nearly $1.2 billion in total debts and $1.3 billion in total assets.

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