Forever 21 has made a deal to sell itself for $81 million to a group of buyers including its two biggest landlords in a move that may save the bankrupt fast fashion chain from liquidation.

The offer for Forever 21’s remaining stores, brands and most of its other assets from landlords Simon Property Group and Brookfield and licensing firm Authentic Brands Group is a “stalking horse” bid that would set the starting price for a bankruptcy auction. Other bidders have until Feb. 7 to submit an offer.

“The proposed sale process will help drive [the bankruptcy case] to a value-maximizing conclusion,” Forever 21 said in court papers.

Forever 21 owed Simon $8.1 million at the time of its Chapter 11 filing in September while Brookfield was owed $5.3 million. The retailer rented nearly 100 stores from Simon in the U.S., representing 1.4% of Simon’s domestic base rent, according to securities filings.

Forever 21 had planned to shutter 350 of its 800 stores around the world as it started the bankruptcy proceedings.

“Simon and Brookfield, as major landlords to Forever 21, have a stake in keeping the fast-fashion retailer and mall staple running,” Retail Dive said. “Diminished though it might be, the banner has a deep history and could still be driving traffic to those malls.”

When asked in July about acquiring or investing in more of its tenants, Simon Property CEO David Simon said, “We’re certainly as good as the private-equity guys when it comes to retail investment. … And so, I wouldn’t rule it out.”

Simon previously teamed up with mall owner General Growth Properties to rescue teen apparel retailer Aeropostale, which they acquired out of bankruptcy.

Forever 21 filed bankruptcy after its rapid international expansion left it unable to invest in its supply chain. As CNBC reports, its sales tumbled amid heightened competition from rivals such as H&M and Zara.

“Those retailers that have successfully reorganized and emerged from bankruptcy by and large have gone in with pre-negotiated plans with creditors and other stakeholders for revamping the company and its finances,” RetailDive noted, adding, “without a plan, Forever 21 faced possible liquidation.”

Photo by Steve Taylor/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

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