The deadline for a baseline bidder in the upcoming auction of Haggen’s remaining stores — including all five in Whatcom County — has passed with no group apparently being named.
The Bellingham-based grocer is scheduled to auction off its 33 core stores on Friday, Feb. 5. A deadline of Jan. 21 was set in order to name a stalking horse bidder in a similar format to the auction of the non-core stores in November. As of 5 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 21, no announcement was made by Haggen and no court documents had been submitted online.
A stalking horse bidder helps establish a baseline for the auction; other qualified bidders can then come and offer more for the stores.
Not having a stalking horse bidder doesn’t change the auction format. According to court documents, Haggen now has until Tuesday, Feb. 2 to designate a baseline bid. The bid deadline for qualified bidders is Friday, Jan. 29.
The remaining 33 core stores are in Washington and Oregon.
This is the latest step as the company navigates through its Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Earlier this year, Haggen purchased 146 stores from Albertson and Safeway to help satisfy a Federal Trade Commission requirement of shedding stores before a Safeway-Albertsons merger. Haggen struggled mightily in converting those stores, leading to the bankruptcy filing in September.
The impending auction does not necessarily mean the end of the Haggen store name. An investor or buyer could come in and purchase the stores with the intention of keeping the brand, which is well-known in the Pacific Northwest. It is also possible that the Comvest Group, the Florida private investment firm that became the major stakeholder in the company in 2011, could enter the auction and be the high bidder.
It’s also possible that a different grocer could be the high bidder and convert the stores to its brand, marking the end of the Haggen era.