Bon-Ton Stores Inc., a department-store chain founded at the tail end of the 19th century, appears poised to close all of its 267 stores, according to published reports.
The only bidders competing at the Monday start of the bankrupt chain’s court-supervised auction were liquidators, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.
Bon-Ton, which has headquarters in York County and Milwaukee, Wisc., has stores in 24 states, largely in the Northeast and Midwest. There are two stores in Luzerne County, at the Wyoming Valley Mall in Wilkes-Barre Township and in the Midway Shopping Center in Wyoming.
The company’s holdings also include the Carson’s, Younkers, Elder-Beerman, Bergner’s, Boston Store and Herberger’s chains.
Struggling financially in recent years, Bon-Ton filed for Chapter 11 protection in February in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for Delaware.
At that time, CEO Bill Tracy said the company was engaged in discussions with potential investors and debt holders on a financial restructuring plan, and the actions being taken were intended to allow for additional time and financial flexibility.
A Bon-Ton spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
According to the Reuters story, Bon-Ton had been working with U.S. mall owners Namdar Realty Group and Washington Prime Group Inc. to secure a bid that would have kept open a large portion of Bon-Ton locations. Bon-Ton is a major tenant of both landlords and its survival would have helped protect the value of their malls.
Wyoming Valley Mall is owned by PREIT — Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust — a publicly traded real estate investment trust that owns and manages properties. A spokesperson for PREIT said the company would issue a statement sometime Tuesday, but that statement was not received prior to press time.
Money raised from the auction will be used to repay what is owed to Bon-Ton’s creditors.
One liquidator group estimated its initial bid was worth about $650 million, according to a creditor representative.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.