(Corrects paragraph 3 to remove attribution to Venezia. The information came from a hearing held on Thursday)
* Liquidator confirms sales have started at all 399 stores
* Borders still hopes to sell 35 stores to Books-A-Million
By Nick Brown
NEW YORK, July 22 (Reuters) - Going-out-of-business sales began on Friday at all of Borders Group Inc’s BGPIQ.PK 399 stores, according to a spokesman for one of the companies charged with liquidating the nation’s second-largest bookstore chain.
A group led by Hilco Merchant Resources and Gordon Brothers Retail Partners began the process of selling off Borders’ merchandise and furniture at all stores, said Gordon Brothers spokesman Craig Venezia.
That includes 35 stores that may stay open pending sale negotiations between Borders and Books-A-Million Inc BAMM.O.
Borders, which filed for bankruptcy in February, gained court approval on Thursday of its plan to end its 40-year business, but said it was in last-minute talks to transfer as many as 35 stores to Books-A-Million, the third-biggest book retailer.
Borders lawyer Andrew Glenn told Reuters on Thursday that there were no hard-and-fast deadlines for finalizing a deal, but said Books-A-Million would like to complete a transaction quickly to avoid losing its would-be inventory to store-closing sales.
It was initially unclear whether liquidators would hold off on the sales to give the parties more time to come to terms on a deal, but Venezia said on Friday that the sales had begun at all stores.
Douglas Markham, Books-A-Million’s chief administrative officer, declined to comment on Friday.
A spokeswoman for Borders did not address the closing sales, saying only that the company was “hopeful” for a deal, which could save as many as 1,500 of Borders’ nearly 11,000 jobs.
Regardless of whether a deal is reached, the vast majority of Borders’ stores will close, leaving retail holes in many major shopping hubs. Borders plans to conduct a separate auction process to find takers for as many of its leases as possible.
The company stands to lose at least the bulk of its 10,700 jobs in what Glenn called a “bittersweet” emergence from bankruptcy.
“There were a lot of sad people, a lot of sadness in the corporate office,” Glenn told Judge Martin Glenn, no relation, at U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan on Thursday.
The company had hoped to sell itself to private equity firm Najafi Cos, which owns the Book-of-the-Month Club, but the deal fell apart amid creditor objections, and no other buyer emerged.
The liquidation process will probably bring in between $250 million and $284 million that the company can use to pay back creditors, Borders said in court papers.
The case is In re Borders Group Inc, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York, No. 11-10614. (Reporting by Nick Brown; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)