By Kristen Haunss and Jessica DiNapoli
(Reuters) - U.S. apparel retailer J. Crew Group Inc is taking steps to negotiate with its creditors about cutting the value of its approximately $2 billion debt load, as its struggles with falling sales, people familiar with the matter said on Friday.
A debt restructuring would underscore the challenges the company has faced since it was acquired by private equity firms TPG Capital LP and Leonard Green & Partners LP in a $3 billion leveraged buyout in 2011. J. Crew has struggled as many shoppers have shunned malls and turned to internet shopping.
The company is exploring ways to take advantage of the low trading price of some of its debt, one of the people said.
As part of its preparations for negotiating with its creditors, J. Crew is planning to move the rights to its iconic brand into a separate subsidiary, the people said.
This move would give J. Crew a number of options to cut down its debt, including raising new financing to buy back its loans and bonds at a discount, or offering creditors the chance to swap into the new debt holdings.
After one of the company's banks told loan holders about the brand move, prices on its loans fell to as low as about 50 cents on the dollar Friday morning from around 64 cents on the dollar, the people said.
The company's bonds were trading at 36 cents on the dollar, according to Thomson Reuters data.
The sources asked not to be identified because the negotiations are confidential. J. Crew, TPG and Leonard Green declined to comment.
Other retailers have considered similar moves to separate their brands from their brick-and-mortar footprints. Teen retailer American Apparel LLC, for example, filed for bankruptcy last month with a deal in place to sell its intellectual property. It is still looking for a buyer for its stores.
But moving assets can be contentious. U.S. radio station owner iHeartMedia Inc <IHRT.PK> came under fire from a group of senior creditors when it moved shares of affiliate Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings Inc <CCO.N> to a subsidiary ahead of a potential debt restructuring. A Texas judge ultimately said that the move was permissible.
J. Crew faces $500 million in maturities in bonds in 2019. Reuters reported last month that J. Crew was also carving out its successful Madewell brand. That brand is not expected to move to the new subsidiary, the people said.
Debtwire reported earlier on Friday that J. Crew would transfer its intellectual property to a Cayman subsidiary.
(Reporting by Kristen Haunns and Jessica DiNapoli in New York; Editing by Bernard Orr)