With a court hearing looming, JC Penney may have found itself a buyer in bankruptcy thanks to the help of mall owners Simon Property Group and Brookfield Property Partners, Reuters reports.

JC Penney filed for Chapter 11 in May amid the coronavirus pandemic. The department store retailer struggled with stagnant sales that were further complicated by the temporary closure of stores during the outbreak of COVID-19.

While JC Penney has since reopened its stores, it was not enough to save the retailer from its financial demise as it filed for bankruptcy protection and announced it was closing as many as 242 stores this past spring. Layoffs then followed as JC Penney looked to restructure and find a buyer to avoid liquidation.

Both Simon Property Group and Brookfield Property Partners are finalizing an offer that could save as many as 70,000 jobs and about 650 stores, sources told Reuters. Under the agreement, JC Penney’s hedge funds and private-equity firms would take ownership of the stores and distribution centers while wiping away about $5 billion in debt.

The move by Simon Property Group and Brookfield Property Partners is a shift for mall operators that are now saving struggling retailers during the pandemic. Without the financial assistance from the mall operators, many retailers would default on rent and cause mall stores to go dark, leaving vacancies and little reason for consumers to shop at the large outlets.

This is not the first deal of its kind for Simon Properties Group, which also rescued Brooks Brothers and Lucky Brand in bankruptcy. Brookfield Property Partners also said it would commit $5 billion to revitalize struggling retailers during the pandemic, according to Reuters.

JC Penney’s court hearing is scheduled for 3 p.m. EDT on Wednesday.

JC Penney
A man with a Macy's bag walks past the J.C. Penney's store in New York on April 11, 2013. Reuters