$3.5m offer on rights to store leases

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones/AP) – Wickes Furniture Co., which is liquidating its business, has signed a deal with a joint venture that will pay at least $3.5 million for rights to the furniture company’s store leases.

The joint venture that will lead the bidding on the leases includes Retail Consulting Services Inc., Hudson Capital Partners LLC, Crystal Capital fund LP and Julius M. Feinblum Real Estate Inc., according to papers filed Wednesday in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del.

One of the country’s largest retailers, Wickes filed for Chapter 11 protection Feb. 3 and agreed to sell its assets quickly to cover debts. Rights to its store leases will be sold at a bankruptcy-court auction.

A different joint venture of liquidators won court approval to start going-out-of-business sales for Wickes’ inventory. Those sales began Saturday, run by Hilco Merchant Resources LLC, SB Capital Group LLC, Tiger Capital Group LLC and Planned Furniture Promotions, Inc. A high debt level made Wickes vulnerable to a sales slump. In court documents, Wickes said it has been ”highly leveraged” since it was acquired by Sun Capital Partners of Boca Raton, Fla. in 2004. Debts were estimated at $208 million in court papers filed at the time of the bankruptcy petition.