Brand licensor Bluestar challenges Authentic Brands for Brookstone

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Brand licensor Bluestar Alliance LLC, managing women’s fashion labels including bebe and Tahari, is challenging competitor Authentic Brands Group LLC for the intellectual property of bankrupt gadget and gift retailer Brookstone Company Inc with a bid of $40 million, according to papers filed late Tuesday.

After filing for bankruptcy for the second time earlier this month, Brookstone is searching for a buyer. Authentic Brands proposed to be the so-called stalking horse bidder for Brookstone with an offer of $35 million this week, after acquiring the Nine West shoe and accessories label in June.

Bluestar’s higher offer was contained in papers filed with U.S. bankruptcy court in Delaware.

New Hampshire-based Brookstone plans to close its 101 stores in malls, but hopes to keep its 34 shops in airports running. Both Authentic Brands and Bluestar propose to work with a separate buyer for the company’s real estate and explore options for keeping some of the brick-and-mortar shops open, according to court papers.

Brookstone, Bluestar and Authentic Brands could not immediately be reached for comment.

An auction is scheduled for next month, and other bidders may still surface. A U.S. bankruptcy court judge must approve the buyer.

U.S. retailers have been going through an extended downturn as more shoppers make purchases only online, leading to many household names including Toys “R” Us and RadioShack to file for bankruptcy in recent years.

Brookstone filed for bankruptcy and emerged in 2014 under the ownership of a consortium of Chinese investors but its U.S. business has struggled even as the brand has gained traction in Asia.

The brand, famous for its massage gadgets and chairs, began as a catalog company in the 1960s, offering shoppers hard-to-find tools.

(This version of the story was refiled to remove garbles before first word)

Reporting by Jessica DiNapoli; Editing by Frances Kerry