How This Kith Investor Is Rallying the Fashion Industry to Help Save Barneys

Save Barneys.

That’s the plea made by fashion trade executive and Kith investor Sam Ben-Avraham, who is currently raising capital to complete his bid for Barneys New York ahead of an Oct. 24 bankruptcy auction. He’s up against Authentic Brands Group, whose offer to buy the luxury retailer’s intellectual property was already accepted last week.

Ben-Avraham, founder of the Liberty Fairs trade show, over the weekend penned an open letter to the public — addressed “to whom it may concern” — stating that in just a matter of days, “we are at risk of losing a cultural institution that has been an anchor point for the city for almost a century.”

“We cannot sit on the sidelines,” read Ben-Avraham’s petition. “Let’s give Barneys the future it deserves. Let’s breathe new life into this iconic New York establishment.” He concluded by inviting additional investors to join him in this final bid.

By tapping into his network of friends and family, Ben-Avraham reportedly managed to form a consortium of industry executives and raise $100 million in equity and another $200 million in debt as of late last week. Among his patrons are Ben-Avraham’s brother, real estate developer Uzi Ben-Avraham; Intermix founder Khajak Keledjian; and supermarket magnate and Barneys investor Ron Burkle.

Though it’s unknown whether Ben-Avraham’s appeal has resulted in more financial support, his outreach has garnered public support online. As of an hour ago, the Instagram account @SaveBarneys said that it had at least 10,000 signatures for the petition.

As the clock ticks down on Ben-Avraham’s fundraising, ABG remains the leading contender to win Barneys’ business. Last week, a filing in bankruptcy court showed that Barneys had entered into an agreement to sell its assets to the New York-based group, along with investment banking firm B. Riley Financial Inc., in a cash deal estimated at roughly $271.4 million.

As part of the stalking-horse bid, all of the retailer’s seven stores would be slated for closing, including its storied Madison Avenue flagship that spans 265,000 square feet and 10 floors. The department store chain has two other locations in New York as well as three locations in California and one in Boston.

Additionally, ABG has said that, while it intends to run Barneys’ digital operations, it would license the company’s name to an expert in the field: Saks Fifth Avenue and parent Hudson’s Bay Co., which is expected to create private-label merchandise and build shop-in-shops within some Saks locations.

In contrast, Ben-Avraham seeks to maintain operations at Barneys’ flagship and four other stores. “Its impact on culture cannot be understated,” the exec wrote in his letter. “The brand as we know it today will disappear from our lives if it becomes an intellectual property license operation.”

He added, “My team and I believe we can do better. We can do better for the business with our vision: We’ll bring back the brand you’ve come to know and love, and make it commercially viable for the future. … We have a solution that doesn’t involve mass layoffs and store closures. Our team has been working around the clock to save it from a disaster.”

Barneys filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection just over two months ago, but it managed to secure $218 million in financing that allowed it to maintain operations. The retailer has struggled amid skyrocketing rents and shifting consumer demands that have weighed heavily on its margins, particularly in Manhattan, where the Madison Avenue flagship has been housed for nearly a century.

Over the past couple months, the high-end chain shuttered units in Las Vegas, Chicago and Seattle, and it closed some warehouse locations and smaller concept stores as part of its restructuring plan. Barneys has managed to continue paying employee wages and honoring customer orders as it works toward meeting its financial commitments.

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