(Bloomberg) -- Express Inc. is the latest retailer poised to rise from the ashes of bankruptcy in the unlikely hands of its landlords. 

The chain store said Monday it would sell itself in Chapter 11 to a group led by mall owners Simon Property Group and Brookfield Properties — joining in a recent tradition of shopping-center staples being bailed out by those with one of the biggest stakes in their success. 

The vessel for the revival of Express is aptly dubbed “Phoenix.” 

To form it, Simon and Brookfield teamed up with WHP Global, a firm that owns and licenses brands. WHP, which is now backed by finance heavyweights Ares Management Corp. and Oaktree Capital Management, bought Toys “R” Us out of bankruptcy in 2018 and also owns trademarks including Anne Klein and Isaac Mizrahi. 

Until now the two landlords, which operate as real estate investment trusts, have done all their retail-resurrection experiments in concert with WHP’s larger competitor, Authentic Brands Group, whose portfolio includes Reebok, Nautica, Boardriders and Sports Illustrated.

Authentic, Simon and Brookfield engineered the first mall-sponsored retailer rescue in 2016 when the failure of teen apparel chain Aeropostale threatened to shutter enough mall-based storefronts to get the owners’ attention. 

In the following years of so-called “retail apocalypse,” the prospect of hallways going dark brought either Simon or Brookfield or both back in the courtroom to buy Forever 21, Brooks Brothers, JC Penney and more. 

The Express bid comes even as Simon Property has reported declining performance for its retail and brand investments and seemed to distance itself from the ventures. In early 2023, Simon announced the previous quarter saw net-operating income from the brand business fall 35.4% to $125 million.

On a call to discuss the results, Chief Executive Officer David Simon said he was broadly “pleased” with the brands and many had been “extraordinarily profitable,” in previous years, but the firm wouldn’t necessarily own its retail brands five or ten years down the line since the business is not its core focus. 

--With assistance from Jonathan Randles.

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