Sale of Canadian Toys 'R' Us outlets to Fairfax Financial approved

A U.S. bankruptcy judge has approved the sale of the Canadian operations of Toys "R" Us to Toronto-based Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd.

Fairfax was only bidder for company's Canadian outlets

A Toys "R" Us sign is seen in Montreal in this Sept. 2017. A U.S. bankruptcy judge in Virginia has approved the sale of the company's Canadian assets to Fairfax Financial. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

A U.S. bankruptcy judge has approved the sale of the Canadian operations of Toys "R" Us to Toronto-based Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd.

At a hearing Tuesday in Richmond, Va., Judge Keith Phillips gave his consent to the $300-million sale.

Fairfax was the only bidder at an auction held Monday in New York City for the 82 Canadian outlets of the toy retailer. The Canadian outlets have stayed open even as the company moved to shut down its operations in the U.S. and the U.K.

In addition, Toys "R" Us will set aside about $156 million US to pay vendors for toys and merchandise shipped after the U.S. retailer's Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing last September, a lawyer for the company said.

The vendor reserve fund will be carved out of a broader budget meant to cover some expenses as the retailer winds down its business in the largest-ever U.S. retail liquidation, Toys "R" Us lawyer Joshua Sussberg said at the bankruptcy court hearing.

However, the amount fails to cover total trade claims worth roughly $760 million US, lawyers who represent trade vendors said at the hearing.

Vendors ranging from heavyweights such as handicraft company Crayola to smaller toy manufacturers have said in court papers that they were taken by surprise when Toys "R" Us announced the largest-ever U.S. retail liquidation in March, putting payments at risk.

Many vendors believed that payment for shipments after the Sept. 18 Chapter 11 filing would be covered by a $3.1 billion US bankruptcy loan, but that loan gives priority to lenders and other expenses such as legal fees, lawyers said on Tuesday.

"It's a really hard pill to swallow," said Erika Morabito, a lawyer who represents a group of trade vendors. At the hearing, she said vendors remain in a "dire" situation even after laying off employees and closing stores.

More than a dozen executives, specialists and lawyers have told Reuters that many small vendors are at risk of bankruptcy due to the disappearance of Toys "R" Us and Babies "R" Us in the United States.

In a court filing late Monday, Morabito said that absent a more comprehensive settlement, the group's members and other vendors will likely pursue litigation "against the persons or entities responsible for the severe losses suffered."

Both Morabito's group and an official committee of unsecured creditors are pushing for reserve funds to be paid on a pro rata basis.

Phillips approved the proposed wind-down budget at the hearing.

The company has said it is in talks over the sale of its Asian and Central European businesses.

with files from CBC News