Exclusive: Sycamore Partners wins bankruptcy auction for The Limited - sources

(Reuters) - Buyout firm Sycamore Partners has won the auction for the e-commerce business and intellectual property of bankrupt U.S. women’s apparel retailer The Limited with a bid of $26.8 million, people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

Sycamore Partners outbid clothing firm Sunrise Brands LLC in the auction, the people said, asking not to be identified because the outcome has not yet been announced.

Sycamore Partners declined to comment. Sunrise Brands and The Limited did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The sale to Sycamore Partners must still be approved by a U.S. bankruptcy court judge.

The Limited was forced to close its roughly 250 brick-and-mortar stores earlier this year. It filed for bankruptcy last month, with Sycamore Partners as a stalking-horse bidder.

Sunrise Brands, whose holdings include branded apparel for actresses Melissa McCarthy and Eva Longoria, submitted an offer for The Limited last week.

The bankruptcy auction underscores the interest that the e-commerce business and intellectual property of even bankrupt retailers can attract. Retailers such as The Limited are experiencing a major upheaval as consumer tastes change and online competitors thrive.

Sycamore Partners’ retail portfolio includes department store chain Belk, footwear and accessories line Nine West and online-only women’s apparel company Coldwater Creek, whose intellectual property it acquired through bankruptcy proceedings in 2014.

The Limited opened its first store in Ohio in 1963 and expanded across the country, becoming the centerpiece around which U.S. retailing guru Leslie Wexner founded specialty shop powerhouse L Brands Inc LB.N. L Brands, now the parent company for intimates chain Victoria's Secret and toiletry retailer Bath & Body Works, owned The Limited until 2007, when buyout firm Sun Capital Partners Inc took a majority share in it.

Sun Capital noted in a letter to investors earlier this year that it had almost doubled its investment in the retailer even as it was preparing to file for bankruptcy.

Reporting by Jessica DiNapoli in New York; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli