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Ascena Retail Sells Catherines and Will Close 23 Justice Stores

Bankrupt Ascena Retail Group has chosen FullBeauty Brands Operations LLC as the buyer for its Catherines plus-size operations for $40.8 million.

The bankrupt retailer had chosen the $16 million offer by City Chic Collective USA Inc. as its stalking horse bidder for Wednesday’s court auction, but now City Chic moves into back-up bidder position. If for some reason FullBeauty can’t close, City Chic becomes the purchaser, buying the Catherines assets at a purchase price of $39.9 million.

The acquisition by FullBeauty is still subject to bankruptcy court approval. A hearing is slated for Sept. 21 at a bankruptcy court in Richmond, Va.

FullBeauty is a holding company that has multiple brands in its portfolio, many in the plus-size sector. Those brands include Roaman’s, Woman Within, Fullbeauty.com, Ellos and Jessica London. The company also owns KingSize, which focuses on men’s big and tall, and BrylaneHome, a home goods business.

FullBeauty itself emerged from bankruptcy proceedings last year, and is now owned by investment funds managed or advised by Goldman Sachs Merchant Banking Division and by Oaktree Capital Management. Apax Partners and Charlesbank Capital Partners retain minority stakes. Prior to its bankruptcy, Apax acquired the stake owned by Webster Capital and a portion of the stake held by Charlesbank, which shifted to the role of minority stakeholder. Webster and Charlesbank acquired the company in 2013 for $525 million from Paris-based luxury conglomerate Kering SA. Kering, then known as PPR, was the owner of Redcats, which actually operated the FullBeauty business that was then known as OneStopPlus. Redcats, formerly La Redoute Group, was the international holding company for online fashion and home brands operating across 31 countries. Other brands in the portfolio include plus-size brand Avenue, The Golf Warehouse, La Redoute, Stella McCartney Kids and Castaluna. Kering in 2012 sold the brands under its Redcats umbrella to focus on its luxury portfolio.

Separately in the bankruptcy, Ascena filed court documents noting that it plans to close another 23 Justice stores to focus on digital instead. In July, the company said it would shutter 1,600 stores, leaving its store fleet at 1,200. At the time, Justice and Catherines, which the company decided to wind-down, accounted for about 1,000 doors.

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