Updated Saturday, December 29, 2012 at 09:43 PM
Starbucks is among seven bidders for Tully's Coffee, and its offer is for roughly half of the smaller chain's stores, according to sources familiar with the process who spoke on condition of anonymity.
If Starbucks were to win the bidding, the other stores apparently would be available for others to buy, although it's unclear who might want them, and it is possible that some might close.
The bids were filed on Thursday as part of an auction process for Tully's, a long-troubled Seattle coffee chain that filed for bankruptcy protection in October.
Bids were submitted to Tully's owner TC Global, its attorneys and its unsecured creditors, but not filed with the bankruptcy court, which means they are not publicly available.
Tully's now has 47 company-operated stores and about 500 employees. It sold its roasting and other wholesale business in 2009.
Actor Patrick Dempsey's investment group, which said last week it would make a bid, filed a plan to buy all the stores.
Dempsey's group, Global Baristas, also appears to have the most lucrative offer. But it is unclear how much more the group is bidding than Kachi Partners of Colorado, which said in November it would pay $4.3 million, including the assumption of certain liabilities.
Another bidder is a Tully's franchisee in the Philippines called AgriNurture, which proposes expanding Tully's brand internationally and, it appears, does not want the U.S. stores.
Other bidders — some could be shell companies acting on behalf of better-known parties — are Tully's Acquisition Group, Direct Media Systems and Big City Ventures doing business as Coffee Group. It is unclear if any represents a chain of six local coffee drive-thrus that earlier expressed interest in buying Tully's.
An attorney for TC Global declined to provide details about the bids, and Starbucks declined to comment on whether it made an offer.
The seven bidders will take part in an auction for Tully's on Thursday at the law offices of its unsecured creditors. A judge will determine Jan. 11 whether to accept the bid favored by Tully's and its creditors. The deal would close in late January.
Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter @AllisonSeattle