Bidders vie for PE-backed Brookstone

Target: Brookstone Inc

Price: More than $120 million plus assumption of debt

Sponsors: Osim, Temasek Holdings, JW Childs Associates LP

Buyer: Blucora Inc

Blucora plans to merge Brookstone with Monoprice, the online seller of electronics accessories it bought last year, sister news service Reuters reported, citing  the Wall Street Journal.

Brookstone, which has battled disappointing sales and weak liquidity, has $140 million in debt, the Journal said.

The company, which had been looking for a potential buyer, said in March it was working with the owner of Spencer’s retail chain for a sale of the company and was planning to file for bankruptcy to facilitate the process.

Brookstone was taken private in 2005 by a group led by Osim, Asia’s biggest maker of massage chairs, in a $445 million deal. The group included Temasek Holdings and private equity firm JW Childs Associates LP.

Blucora is likely to offer a material premium to Spencer’s bid at the bankruptcy auction for Brookstone, which sells products ranging from massage chairs to bathroom slippers, the Journal said.

Blucora owns metasearch engines, including WebCrawler, and TaxACT, an online tax services provider.

Spencer, whose offer includes $120 million in cash and assumption of Brookstone’s debt, was completing paperwork to be a “stalking horse bidder” at Brookstone’s bankruptcy auction, the business daily reported, citing a Brookstone spokeswoman.

“Stalking horse bids” set baseline offers for the assets and are still subject to auctions.

Blucora spokeswoman Stacy Ybarra told Reuters, “We don’t comment on speculations or rumors.”

Brookstone and Spencer could not immediately be reached.

Arnab Sen is a correspondent for Reuters in Bangalore.