(Bloomberg) -- Express Inc. is looking to a stakeholder best known for its revival of Toys “R” Us to swoop in with a takeover bid once the retailer enters bankruptcy court, according to people with knowledge of the plans.

WHP Global, a brand manager that owns Express shares as part of a 2023 partnership, is among a handful of firms considering buying the troubled apparel chain as part of Chapter 11 proceedings, said the people, who could not be named discussing private preparations.

Other prospective bidders include the private equity firm Sycamore Partners, the people said. Representatives for Sycamore Partners, Express, and WHP declined to comment on the plans. 

Express may file for bankruptcy as soon as this weekend, but the preparations aren’t final and plans could change, the people said. 

WHP Global, based in New York and backed by Ares Management Corp., owns a portfolio of brands including Anne Klein, Isaac Mizrahi and Rag & Bone. The firm holds a 60% stake in the Express brand through a joint venture formed in 2023. The firm licenses the brands to partners who manage their operations.

WHP acquired the Toys “R” Us name by buying a controlling stake in its owner during the retail giant’s 2018 liquidation. 

Prospective bidders for Express have discussed intentions to preserve the chain’s operations and acquire it as a going concern, the people said. 

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.