On Mary 15, 2017 - nearly exactly a year ago — rue21 Inc. became the latest in what was a string of specialty fashion retailers to file for bankruptcy; it sought to pursue both an operational and a financial restructuring. The company had 1179 brick-and-mortar locations in various strip centers, regional malls and outlet centers. It also had a capital structure that looked like this:
Much of the leverage emanated out of an Apax Partners LLP-sponsored take-private transaction in 2013. We recently discussed Apax Partners in the context of FullBeauty here, in our recent Members’-only briefing.
Without any real contest, it was clear that the term loan holders constituted the “fulcrum” security and would end up swapping said loans for equity in the reorganized company. And that is precisely what happened. The ABL was covered, the term lenders funded a roll-up DIP credit facility along with new money to finance the pendency of the cases and then converted that DIP into an exit facility. The post-emergence capital structure consists of:
$125 million ABL; and
$50 million term loan (plus accrued interest on the DIP term loan as of the effective date).
General unsecured claimants were provided an equity “kiss” on the petition date and then, after the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors’ (“UCC”) formed, it extricated additional value in the form of, among other things, (i) a put option to sell its post-reorg equity to one of the reorganized debtors, and (ii) a waiver by the prepetition term lenders of their $200 million deficiency claim. While the UCC did try and go after third-party releases for Apax, Apax ultimately succeeded in obtaining the release pursuant to the bankruptcy court’s September 9 confirmation order on the basis that it…
“…agreed to (i) support the Plan, including by promptly facilitating and participating in prepetition Plan discussions that culminated in the Restructuring Support Agreement and the Plan, notwithstanding that their equity position would likely be eliminated thereunder; and (ii) participate in the financing of the DIP Term Loan Credit Facility.”
In other words, Apax bought its release for $2 million in DIP allocation.
All told, this was a solid deleveraging of roughly $700 million. Moreover, the company closed roughly 400 stores. The company was seemingly well-positioned to effectuate the rest of its proposed restructuring, including (i) revamping its e-commerce strategy, (ii) improving the in-store experience, and (iii) pursuing a long-term business plan under relatively new management in a highly competitive retail atmosphere.
“Seemingly” being the operative word. In January, The Wall Street Journal reported (paywall) that the retailer experienced lackluster sales and tightening trade terms. Then, in February, Reuters reported that the company “is seeking financing after lackluster holiday sales failed to generate the cash it had hoped for….” It noted, further, that the company had engaged Piper Jaffray Companies ($PJC) to raise the funds. Notably, there has been nothing new on this front since. No news is probably not good news when it comes to this situation. Start the sewing machines: a Scarlet 22 tag may be in order and a liquidation on the horizon.
In the meantime, if the company is looking for ways to preserve liquidity, it might want to consider a far less generous return policy:
With clothes like this and a customer like that, what could go wrong?