Ms. Vitale, the company’s former chief executive, spent much of the summer meeting with potential purchasers. Gene Pressman, the member of the Barneys founding family who had driven the store’s expansion into women’s wear and masterminded its Madison Avenue location, considered jumping back into the fray “for about five minutes,” he said.
He chose not to because of the company’s onerous real estate issues.
By the middle of October, it had only attracted a single qualified bid and the proposal was grim: Authentic Brands and B. Riley were prepared to liquidate and close all seven of the stores and license the Barneys name to Saks, as the company announced on Friday.
To Barneys loyalists, this was akin to sacrilege. Authentic Brands is known for buying the intellectual property of flailing retailers, then turning a profit by licensing their names to other companies for new products and earning royalties from those sales, typically without the bother of rent, store staff and inventory.
The bankruptcy of an icon was one thing; trading on the Barneys name while plundering its infrastructure and soul was another.
A “Save Barneys” movement started, with employee support, and Barneys and its lawyers desperately sought other bidders who might be willing to keep at least some of the chain intact. The most vocal contender was Mr. Ben-Avraham, an investor in the streetwear brand Kith and founder of a number of trade shows, who viewed Barneys as a New York landmark that could be reconceived as a new kind of shopping destination.
But alternate bids did not materialize.
Now, as the liquidation sale proceeds, the formerly proud Madison Avenue flagship, which has recently felt empty, may once again be briefly full of shoppers. This time, they will be searching for a bargain on cut-price Prada bags, Jil Sander shirts and Thom Browne suits before the holidays. And the emporium that once defined a certain kind of New York style will instead join its department store graveyard.
“In the end, it’s tragic,” said Julie Gilhart, the president of Tomorrow Consulting, who was fashion director of Barneys from 1992 to 2010. “If ever there was a time for a store that leads through fashion and new ideas from a creative artistic, irreverent lens, it’s now.”
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