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Footwear brand files for bankruptcy; store closings likely

The Rockport Group has filed a voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition — with an eye to being acquired.

The men and women’s footwear brand, which was founded in 1971 and has gone through several changes in ownership, said it has filed for bankruptcy to facilitate its sale to CB Marathon Opco, an affiliate of Charlesbank Equity Fund IX, which will serve as the "stalking horse bidder" in a court-supervised sale process. The agreement is subject to higher and better offers, among other conditions.

The agreement with Charlesbank includes Rockport's global wholesale assets, e-commerce platform and retail operations in Asia and Europe. In addition, Charlesbank will have the opportunity to evaluate Rockport's North American retail operations and determine whether it will pursue an acquisition of certain of these locations. Rockport is seeking court authorization to close the North American retail stores that are not acquired by Charlesbank or another party. The company said information about such store closings will be provided by Rockport at a later date.

Currently, Rockport’s wholesale business accounts for about 57% of its total sale.

“The transaction with Charlesbank will ensure the continuation of Rockport's deep heritage and great brands, and provides a clear path forward for the company by focusing on its global wholesale, independent and e-commerce operations,” Rockport said in a statement. “With the alignment of its operations and the financial strength, consumer expertise and support of Charlesbank, Rockport will be better positioned in today's evolving retail landscape.”

Rockport has obtained $20 million in new-money debtor-in-possession financing from its existing noteholders, which, in addition to its existing $60 million credit facility, will provide it with liquidity to maintain its operations through the sale process, according to the company.
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