Belk, latest department store chain to cite COVID-19 woes, restructuring via Chapter 11 bankruptcy

COVID-19: Belk to restructure via Chapter 11 bankruptcy

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Department store chain Belk announced Tuesday that it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, amid dwindling sales and mounting obstacles associated with the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The Charlotte, North Carolina-based retailer confirmed in a news release that it has entered into a restructuring support agreement with private equity firm Sycamore Partners, its majority owner, as well as its primary and secondary lien holders.

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Per the arrangement, Belk seeks to “recapitalize its business, slash its debt burden by roughly $450 million and extend the maturities on all of its term loans to July 2025,” CNBC reported.

To date, the mall-based retailer has secured commitments for $225 million in new capital from Sycamore, which will retain majority control of the chain, as well as KKR and Blackstone, the news release stated.

“We’re confident that this agreement puts us on the right long-term path toward significantly reducing our debt and providing us with greater financial flexibility to meet our obligations and to continue investing in our business, including further enhancements and additions to Belk’s omnichannel capabilities,” Belk CEO Lisa Harper said in the statement.

Specializing in consumer and retail investments, Sycamore recently purchased the Ann Taylor, Loft, Lou & Grey and Lane Bryant brands out of bankruptcy from Ascena Retail Group, CNBC reported.

Founded in 1888 by William Henry Belk, the chain and its nearly 300 locations – concentrated heavily across the southeast – remained under family control until New York-based Sycamore purchased the chain for roughly $3 billion in 2015, the Charlotte Business Journal reported.

According to the news release, Belk is working toward exiting the reorganization by the end of February.