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Eastland Mall (copy)

Bon-Ton Stores, the parent company of Bergner's at Eastland Mall, could be sold or liquidated in a bankruptcy auction Monday, April 16. 

DAVID PROEBER, Pantagraph file photo

Creditors of The Bon-Ton Stores are looking to buy and liquidate the regional department store chain, which employs 20,000 workers.

A rival investor group that includes two mall owners also hopes to buy The Bon-Ton Stores in a bankruptcy court-supervised auction Monday and keep the business alive, but faced a setback in court last week.

Bon-Ton is the parent company of Bergner's, which has stores in Bloomington's Eastland Mall, as well as the Central Illinois communities of Champaign, Forsyth, Peoria, Pekin, Peru and Springfield.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Mary Walrath in Delaware decided the investment group, which consists of alternative asset manager DW Partners, commercial real estate investment and management firm Namdar Realty Group, its partner Mason Asset Management and retail real estate investment trust Washington Prime Group, couldn't collect a $500,000 fee from The Bon-Ton Stores to do due diligence into the purchase. She ruled a work fee was not allowed by the bidding procedures when other potential buyers, which include debt holders and liquidation groups, were footing due diligence bills themselves, according to court records.

"We remain in active discussions with DW Partners and other members of the investor group to complete an asset purchase agreement as we proceed toward the court-supervised auction scheduled to be held on April 16, 2018," a company spokesperson said in a statement.

The Milwaukee- and Pennsylvania-based retailer operates 260 stores under the Carson's, Bon-Ton, Bergner's, Boston Store, Elder-Beerman, Herberger's and Younkers nameplates. 

Bergner's is one of three anchors, along with Kohl's and Sears, at Eastland. Macy's and J.C. Penney both closed last year. 

 Pete is a reporter with The Times of Munster, Ind. 

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