Mall owner Brookfield will spend $5 billion to save retailers

People walk through the Brookfield Place Pavilion at the World Trade Center West Concourse pedestrian transit connection on October 24, 2013 in New York City.

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Property and mall owner Brookfield Asset Management is targeting spending $5 billion to help struggling retailers, as the retail industry reels from the coronavirus pandemic, the company announced Thursday. 

The company said its retail revitalization program, backed by Brookfield and its institutional partners, will focus on taking noncontrolling stakes in retailers to assist them with their capital needs during this time of “dislocation.” 

The announcement comes as mall-based retail has been one of the hardest hit industries during the Covid-19 crisis. Thousands of retailers’ stores have been shut since mid-March, to try to help curb the spread of the virus. Two retailers — J.Crew and Neiman Marcus — filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this week. More retail bankruptcies, and many more permanent store closures, are expected to be looming. 

Brookfield has already bet big on retail. It acquired the remaining stake it did not already own in U.S. mall owner General Growth Properties in 2018, taking control of properties such as Fashion Show in Las Vegas, and Oakbrook Center in Illinois. GGP had earlier in 2016 teamed up with the biggest U.S. mall owner, Simon Property Group, to buy the embattled teen apparel retailer Aeropostale. And just earlier this year, Brookfield, Simon and Authentic Brands Group acquired the clothing chain Forever 21 out of bankruptcy court. 

Brookfield said the $5 billion initiative announced Thursday will be led by Ron Bloom, managing partner and vice chairman of Brookfield’s private-equity arm. As a former restructuring banker at Lazard, Bloom is known for serving a major role during the 2008 financial crisis on the U.S. government’s auto task force. 

“This initiative is being designed to assist medium-sized enterprises in getting back on their feet,” Bloom said in a statement. “We believe this is a critical component to getting the economy moving again, and we would like to partner with companies and entrepreneurs that can draw on our capital and expertise to stabilize and grow their business.” 

Brookfield said it will be focused on funding retailers that were bringing in normalized revenue of at least $250 million pre-Covid-19, and that have been operating for at least two years. 

A spokeswoman declined to comment further. 

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