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Report: Private-equity firm eyeing Bon-Ton assets

A New York-based private-equity firm that specializes in retail and consumer investments is reportedly looking to buy assets from The Bon-Ton Stores Inc.

Bloomberg reported Thursday that Sycamore Partners, which recently acquired struggling office-supply chain Staples, has been in talks with Bon-Ton about buying some of its assets.

Neither side has commented publicly, and a Bon-Ton spokeswoman declined to comment to the Business Journal.

The distressed department-store chain, which has corporate offices in York County and Milwaukee, has been in the process of restructuring its finances to repay debt and improve its overall liquidity.

Many large retailers, including Bon-Ton, have been trying to adjust to a changing retail environment, where more merchandise is being sold online. Several big-box retailers have been closing stores and filing for bankruptcy.

Bon-Ton, which may be flirting with its own bankruptcy filing, according to recent reports, recently inked a sale-leaseback deal for one of its stores. On Tuesday, Bon-Ton amended a credit line of $880 million to free up more cash for the upcoming holiday season.

Earlier this year, Sycamore Partners acquired The Limited’s brand and other related intellectual property assets. Two years ago, it bought Belk Inc., a chain of department stores in the South where former Bon-Ton CEO Kathryn Bufano worked until 2014.

Bufano left Bon-Ton recently after her contract expired.

Bon-Ton operates 260 stores in 24 states under the Bon-Ton, Bergner’s, Boston Store, Carson’s, Elder-Beerman, Herberger’s and Younkers banners. They include nine furniture galleries and four clearance centers.

Shares of the company’s stock are traded on the NASDAQ under the ticker symbol BONT.

The stock was up about 40 percent today, as of 11 a.m., trading around $1 per share.

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